Julian Assange arrested at Ecudorian Embassy in London

There have been stories about Julian Assange’s imminent exit from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after a seven year stay there avoiding legal actions . He has just left the Embassy after Ecuador withdrew his asylum, to be arrested by UK police for he was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court.

BBC- Julian Assange: Wikileaks co-founder arrested in London

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange has been arrested at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over a sexual assault case that has since been dropped.

At Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday he was found guilty of failing to surrender to the court.

He now faces US federal conspiracy charges related to one of the largest ever leaks of government secrets.

The UK will decide whether to extradite Assange, in response to allegations by the Department for Justice that he conspired with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download classified databases.

He faces up to five years in US prison if convicted on the charges of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion.

Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson said they would be fighting the extradition request. She said it set a “dangerous precedent” where any journalist could face US charges for “publishing truthful information about the United States”.

A Twitter thread on Assange’s court appearance.

Asked his name Assange says “My name is Julian Paul Assange”

The court is told Julian Assange was arrested this morning in two warrants

The court is hearing the history of the Swedish sexual offences case through the UK courts, and how after his appeal failed Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorean embassy in June 2012 in breach of his bail

Assange was arrested this morning on a warrant arising from that breach of bail

The second warrant relates to an extradition request from the US issued in Dec 2017 (issued by the District Judge presiding over today’s case)

The court is hearing how Julian Assange was arrested at 10.15 this morning

Officers tried to introduce themselves but he barged past them. He resisted and shouted “this is unlawful”. He had to be restrained and officers struggled to handcuff him. He shouted again “This is unlawful, I am not leaving” as he was led to the police van.

Julian Assange is told that one charge he faces is that he failed to surrender on 29th June 2012. He pleads “not guilty”

He is told that the US warrant says that between Jan 2010 and July 2010 he conspired with Chelsea Manning to “effectuate” unauthorised disclosure.

The court is now discussing whether Julian Assange has to give evidence to explain why he failed to surrender to bail

Julian Assange will not give evidence

Julian Assange’s lawyer says that District Judge Emma Arbuthnot who heard this case at previous hearings should have recused herself because of “bias”

District Judge Michael Snow tells the defence it is “unacceptable in front of a packed press gallery to traduce the reputation of the senior District Judge”. He says it is “grossly unfair”

District Judge Michael Snow finds Julian Assange guilty of failing to surrender

That was quick, but I guess it’s obvious that’s what he did.

He says Julian Assange’s behaviour is “the behaviour of a narcissist who cannot get beyond his own selfish interest”

He sends Julian Assange to the Crown Court for sentencing as the offence was so serious

The US Justice Dept describes the charge Julian Assange faces as “conspiracy to commit computer intrusion”, saying the charge carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison

Summary on Brexit

A summary on what hasn’t been happening about Brexit from Missy:


Due to some matters beyond my control I have not been able to post on the Brexit dramas of the last couple of weeks, so sorry if anyone missed the posts, though to be honest you haven’t missed anything in terms of Brexit as it hasn’t happened yet – despite supposed to have happened on 29 March.

A Quick summary of the main points:

  1.  May has yet again asked for an extension from the EU, she wanted one until 30 June, but has agreed to an extension up until 31 October. I am not sure if this means the UK will have to partake in European Elections (I hope so).
  2. The Government and Labour have been in talks to come up with an agreement that could pass the house, it would most likely include a second referendum and remaining in the customs union (nicely referred to as a customs union so as not to make voters think they aren’t leaving). Though both have reportedly been ruled out by Theresa May (as was extending beyond 29 March, extending beyond 22 May, extending beyond 30 June…. )
  3. Earlier this week a new law was given Royal Consent requiring the PM to go back to the EU to ask for an extension if directed by Parliament, and effectively ruling out the UK voluntarily leaving without a deal, which means the UK are at the mercy of the EU regarding their leaving arrangements. However, I haven’t read the law, and this morning there was discussion about it where a lawyer indicated that it does not require her to follow Parliament’s direction after this extension, and that it just pertained to going back for an extension this time. I don’t know if that is correct, but we can only hope.
  4. A group has taken court action against the Government stating that extending Brexit is in fact illegal under UK law and the UK should have left on 29 March with no agreement.

All in all this seems very much an action by May to try and force Parliament to vote for her deal, it is becoming a bit of a stand off between her and Parliament.

The Conservatives cannot bring another Confidence vote in her leadership until December under their party rules, however, one can hope that enough pressure is applied to her that will force her to quit (though I doubt it). In May there are local body elections, and many campaigning have already stated they are having problems, Conservative candidates are being told they will not get votes due to not having left the EU yet, some Conservative activists and volunteers have gone on strike and are refusing to campaign, and the Conservatives are down 10 points in the polls.

May seeks Brexit extension, and asks for Opposition help on withdrawal agreement

More votes, more meetings, and but no more progress on Brexit in the UK. Prime Minister Theresa May is seeking an extension to the looming deadline, and is asking Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to work together on finding a way forward that is not a total disaster.

BBC:  UK needs further Brexit extension – May

Theresa May will ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline to “break the log jam” in Parliament.

The PM says she wants to meet Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to agree a plan on the future relationship with the EU.

But she insisted her withdrawal agreement – which was voted down last week – would remain part of the deal.

Mrs May said she wanted the extension to be “as short as possible” – before 22 May so the UK does not have to take part in European elections.

Another Brexit vote, another rejection

Political dysfunction continues in the UK.

BBC – Brexit: MPs reject May’s EU withdrawal agreement

MPs have rejected Theresa May’s EU withdrawal agreement on the day the UK was due to leave the EU.

The government lost by 344 votes to 286, a margin of 58.

It means the UK has missed an EU deadline to delay Brexit to 22 May and leave with a deal.

The prime minister said the UK would have to find “an alternative way forward”, which was “almost certain” to involve holding European elections.

Mrs May now has until 12 April to seek a longer extension to the negotiation process to avoid a no-deal Brexit on that date.

With a clear majority in the Commons against a no-deal Brexit, and with MPs holding more votes on alternative plans on Monday, Mrs May said that the UK would have to find “an alternative way forward”.

The prime minister said that the outcome was “a matter of profound regret”, adding that “I fear we are reaching the limits of this process in this House”.

Despite the referendum two years ago the UK parliament seems unable to work things out.

May said she would resign if a withdrawal agreement was reached, but someone quipped that that was a threat – ‘vote for what I want or I will stay as Prime Minister’.

In the meantime:

 

May offers resignation after Brexit deal

Many may see this gesture as far too late, but Theresa May has offered to resign if she gets her latest Brexit deal through the UK Parliament.

RNZ:  Theresa May says she’ll step down once Brexit delivered

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has told her Conservative Party MPs she will hand over the leadership once Brexit is delivered.

Mrs May said she would not stay in power for the next phase of Brexit talks on the future trading relationship.

But she did not set a firm departure date, according to Tory MPs who were at the meeting where Mrs May spoke.

Mrs May said she knew there was a desire in the Conservative Party for a new approach in the second phase of Brexit negotiations.

“I am prepared to leave this job earlier than I intended in order to do what is right for our country and our party.”

Speaking after the meeting, Tory MP James Cartlidge said: “My recollection is that she said she would not remain in post for the next phase of the negotiations, the implication being that once the withdrawal agreement has passed, she would make way for someone else.”

Tory MP Simon Hart told BBC’s journalist Nick Watt that Mrs May had said she would want to pass her Brexit withdrawal agreement and then set in motion process to replace her.

In the meantime MPs will be voting on eight different options ranging from leaving the European Union without a deal to cancelling Brexit altogether.

However the government has made it clear it won’t necessarily be bound by the results.

Replacing May now would probably make sorting out the Brexit mess even more difficult, but she deserves to go over her mishandling of it.

Brexit debacle – House of Commons rules out another “same in substance” vote

Theresa May and her Government have had another setback in trying to make progress on Brexit, with another vote in Parliament ruled out unless there is “demonstrable change”.

May should know that repeating the same mistake is not a good idea, but House of Commons Speaker John Bercow says she can’t even do that.

Politico: Parliament speaker rules out third vote on ‘same’ Brexit deal

Theresa May’s government cannot hold a third vote on its Brexit deal without securing a “demonstrable change” agreed with the EU, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled, throwing the government’s plans into further chaos.

In a surprise announcement that took both ministers and MPs by surprise, Bercow said that according to parliamentary conventions dating as far back as 1604, the government could not hold repeated votes in the House of Commons on a motion that was the “same in substance.”

fter her deal was heavily voted down in both January and then again last week, May had kept the option open of bringing it back the House of Commons for a third time before this week’s European Council summit where, in the absence of a ratified deal, she will request a potentially lengthy extension to the Article 50 negotiating period, delaying Brexit and forcing the U.K. to participate in upcoming European elections.

Ministers had said that a third vote would only be attempted this week if the government was confident it could win.

After previous heavy defeats it’s hard to see how they could be confident of anything.

Bercow’s ruling appears to have buried any prospect of a vote this week altogether.

As speaker, Bercow’s interpretations of House of Commons conventions are essentially binding unless and until the Commons votes as a majority to break with an established convention.

It is also possible that the government could in theory bring back largely the same deal, but with additional side agreements with the EU, or potentially changes to the non-binding political declaration on the future relationship. Bercow said he would “have to look at the particulars” of any such changes to rule whether they were “in order.”

“I do think a demonstrable change to the proposition would be required,” he said, when asked by Labour MP Hilary Benn whether a new vote would require changes agreed with the EU. “For example, simply a change in an opinion about something wouldn’t itself constitute a change in the offer. So I would have to look the particulars.”

May and her Government seem to have no idea how to proceed with Brexit.

Brexit: Theresa May is now looking like another disaster

From Missy:


As reported yesterday Theresa May did a quick trip to Strasbourg to meet with Juncker (other EU Presidents were also in attendance, along with their Brexit team). At the end of the meeting an agreement was made, and this came out in two statements – one a joint statement, and the second a unilateral statement by May.

Theresa May’s statement outlined what the UK’s understanding of the backstop was, that it is temporary and not a permanent solution. May’s statement also says that if the EU fails to come to an agreement to remove the backstop, then the UK would consider that the backstop had become de facto permanent. This means the UK will have the right to take the EU to the joint arbitration mechanism, it does not mean the UK has a unilateral exit mechanism, nor does it provide a fixed time limit – the two things the House of Commons asked May to try and get if she could not get the backstop removed.

The joint instrument is an 18 point statement which clarifies the commitments both sides make to each other, without changing the Withdrawal Agreement. this interprets how the EU and UK would handle the backstop if it ever came into force. This agreement contains legally binding assurances as opposed to being part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and falls short of what some want.

This morning the Brexit supporting MPs were cautious about the agreements reached last night, all saying they wanted time to read, digest, and analyse the agreement, some stating they would wait for the Attorney General’s legal advice on it before making a decision, and many in the ERG saying they will defer a decision until they had spoken to the DUP.

The AG’s advice was published at around 1130 this morning, and states that the agreement does not change anything as the UK could still find itself trapped in the backstop with no way out. The DUP and Brexiteers have rejected the agreement based on the AG’s advice.

What was looking hopeful this morning for Theresa May is now looking like another disaster for her in the Commons, with some MPs saying she cannot stay in position if she loses again and others saying she needs to call a General Election when she loses the vote. The vote is set down for 7.00pm tonight.


Brexit in peril, May facing defeat

It doesn’t seem to really be news that Theresa May faces defeat over Brexit plans.

Reuters: ‘Brexit in peril’ as PM May faces heavy defeat

Brexit could be reversed if lawmakers reject the government’s exit deal, British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Sunday after two major eurosceptic factions in parliament warned that Prime Minister Theresa May was facing a heavy defeat.

Just 19 days before the United Kingdom is due to leave the EU on March 29, May is scrambling – so far unsuccessfully – to secure last-minute changes to an EU exit treaty before parliament votes on Tuesday on whether to approve the deal.

If she fails, lawmakers are expected to force May to seek a delay to Brexit which some say could see the 2016 decision to leave the bloc reversed. Others argue that, without a delay, Britain faces an economic shock if it leaves without a deal.

“We have an opportunity now to leave on March 29 or shortly thereafter and it’s important we grasp that opportunity because there is wind in the sails of people trying to stop Brexit,” Hunt told the BBC. “We are in very perilous waters.”

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) which props up May’s minority government, and Steve Baker, a leading figure in the large eurosceptic faction of her Conservative party, warned “the political situation is grim”.

“An unchanged withdrawal agreement will be defeated firmly by a sizeable proportion of Conservatives and the DUP if it is again presented to the Commons,” they wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

The Sunday Times said May was battling to save her job as aides were considering persuading her to offer to resign in a bid to get the deal approved. The newspaper also said cabinet ministers had spoken about whether to insist she goes as early as this week.

Amid the political chaos, many company chiefs are aghast at London’s handling of Brexit and say it has already damaged Britain’s reputation as Europe’s pre-eminent destination for foreign investment.

The chances of this turning out well for May or the UK looks slim. It’s a mess with no easy or obvious solutions.

 

May-Merkel agreement on Brexit

From Missy on a possible May-Merkel deal on Brexit – if soi thnis could be a breakthrough for Theresa May:


This is a blog post from the Bruges Group, a eurosceptic think tank that was set up by Conservative MPs / Members in 1989, but now has cross party support. In saying that they generally have a good reputation for well researched articles, and some of the information in this blog post does tally loosely with many rumours circulating at the time of the Chequers deal.

http://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/duplicitous-leaders

“There is no doubt about the veracity of this account since documents have been seen.

On Monday July 9th 2018, several leading French, German and Dutch senior managers were called by EU officials to an urgent meeting.

The meeting was said to be private and those present were informed that Prime Minister May and Chancellor Merkel had reached an Agreement over Brexit. Knowledge of this was attained from the actual transcript of the meeting between May and Merkel.

1) The Agreement was couched in a way to ‘appease’ the Brexit voters.

2) The Agreement would enable May to get rid of those people in her party who were against progress and unity in the EU.

3) Both Merkel and May agreed that the likely course of events would be that UK would re-join the EU in full at some time after the next general election.

4) May agreed to keep as many EU laws and institutions as she could despite the current groundswell of ‘anti-EU hysteria’ in Britain (May’s own words, apparently.)

5) Merkel and May agreed that the only realistic future for the UK was within the EU.

The original Agreement draft was completed in May 2018 in Berlin and then sent to the UK Government Cabinet Office marked ‘Secret’.

NB This Agreement draft was authored in the German Chancellor’s private office.

The Cabinet returned the Agreement draft with suggestions, and there was some to-ing and fro-ing during June 5th 2018.

Private calls between the Prime Minister and Chancellor were made.

The Agreement’s final draft came out late in June 2018. The German Chancellor told Prime Minister May that this was a deal she would support, though there would need to be some more small concessions by the UK to keep the EU happy.

The Chancellor and Prime Minister met in Germany. Merkel had this meeting recorded as a ‘private meeting’ though the Prime Minister was probably unaware of that.

The Chancellor had the transcript of that meeting circulated secretly to EU and key German embassies.

Conclusions

Documents make it quite clear that Prime Minister May was negotiating with Germany, not the EU.

The transcript also makes it clear that the Prime Minister intended to keep all this secret from minsters, especially the Brexit group.

She wants to keep as many EU institutions in UK as intact as possible in order to facilitate an easy return to the EU after 2020.

Chancellor Merkel briefed May on tactics to force Cabinet approval.

The Prime Minister and senior civil servants were working with Germany to stop Brexit or water it down to prevent free trade and the ending of freedom of movement, but to keep cash flowing to the EU.

David Davis was kept in the dark while key EU premiers in France, Holland and Ireland were briefed in full.

Key EU heads were actually briefed in full the day before the Cabinet meeting at Chequers.”

At the time of the Chequers agreement release one journalist said a source let slip that May had said that Angela had seen and approved the deal, this was later denied by no. 10, it was also rumoured that the majority of the negotiation by May was being done with Merkel, and generally believed that if Merkel agreed the deal then it would be agreed to by the EU.

Tomorrow is PMQs, we just have to hope a Brexit supporting MP will bring this up. It will be interesting to see what her response is.

“Brexit is all coming down to Ireland” and “We are at the very beginning of a national rage”

Commentary from The Guardian after Donald Tusk’s attention seeking comment – A special place in hell? Donald Tusk didn’t go far enough

Martin Kettle: “Brexit is all coming down to Ireland”

Not only were the Brexiters clueless: they didn’t give a stuff about Ireland. But this will come back to haunt the Tories

Donald Tusk should be criticised not for his malice, but his moderation. The European council president triggered a tsunami of confected outrage from leavers today when he observed, with some justice, that there should be a special place in hell for those who promoted Brexit without a plan. But he should have said far more. He should have added that, within that special place, there should be an executive suite of sleepless torment for those politicians who promoted Brexit without ever giving a stuff about Ireland.

Once again, Brexit is all coming down to Ireland. This was always going to happen, and rightly so. Time after time in our history, Ireland emerges as an awkward reality check that shames the fantasies of those who think the British are better and that Ireland can be ignored. So there is something both fateful and tragic about the fact Theresa May should have prepared for the final showdown by having to make a rare visit to Ireland.

It wasn’t meant to be this way. For the Brexiters, the leaving of Europe was never about Ireland at all. Brexit was about sovereignty, about greatness, or about not liking too many foreigners living here. It was about throwing off the yoke of Brussels and bringing back blue passports. Ireland barely got a look-in during the debates of 2016, save when John Major and Tony Blair pointed out from lifetimes of experience that Brexit would threaten the Northern Ireland peace agreements.

It would be foolish to assume May has no chance of marshalling a narrow Commons majority behind some version of her EU deal next week. But the odds remain long because she wants to do the right thing, more or less, in Ireland. This has always divided the Tory party down the middle, since the era of Robert Peel. And as Peel found out, it was difficult for a great Tory leader, never mind a limited one.

In 1846, Peel came to the House of Commons to propose the repeal of the corn law tariffs on imported grain. Much of his Tory party, which represented landed interests in the areas where British grain was grown, would have nothing to do with his plan. Peel was a pragmatist: he only became a repealer because events demanded it. Those events were the Irish potato blight and famine. The decision to repeal broke the Tory party for a generation.

Peel could, he admitted to MPs, have concealed the seriousness of the situation in Ireland by “rousing the British lion or adhering to the true blue colour”. But the suffering of four million people in Ireland was too serious, and would only increase. Peel read out a series of shocking eyewitness accounts. “It is absolutely necessary,” said Peel, “before you come to a final decision on this question, that you should understand this Irish case. You must do so.”

It was a speech his critics could have dismissed, if the phrase had been in currency, as “project fear”. It was, in fact, project national interest. Some time next week, May is going to face a similar challenge. Britain in 2019 is not Britain in 1846. The issues faced by Peel and May are very different. But Conservative MPs still face the same question – the need to understand the Irish case.

The Rationalist: “We are at the very beginning of a national rage”. “This is the fault of a political system which for too long we have assumed is functional, when it is transparently not.”

This problem can be resolved in any of the following ways: the DUP (and large parts of the Tory party) accept the backstop and the UK effectively remains in the EU without representation; Ireland leaves the EU and unifies with the UK; Ireland unifies with Northern Ireland; the UK leaves without a deal and therefore has political responsibility for the hard border and the ensuing return to inevitable criminality and violence; or finally, the UK remains in the EU.

None of these outcomes were presented in any form at all as consequences (far less objectives) during the 2016 referendum.

There are no other solutions. Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was the only Brexit that was ever possible without destabilising Ireland’s peace process, which as the phrase insists, is a process which needs nurture, not a fact of life which is irrevocable.

The original ‘’negotiation’ and the present ‘renegotiation’ have been just noise, posturing, theatre and playing for time. It demeans us if we take it seriously and arouses nothing but disgust and contempt if we do not. It has allowed callow politicians like Javid and Hunt to take up ‘positions’ which they consider will advance their own careers and in which they have no conviction. It has nothing whatsoever to do with serious policy that prioritises national and global emergencies.

What Tusk is pointing out here, and what Martin Kettle obviously understands but doesn’t emphasise, is that these were ALWAYS the only solutions. Tusk’s objections (and he has made them colourfully so they will be heard) are that these were not compulsorily stated as part of a post-Brexit plan. People did not know what they were voting about, and whether it was at all achievable. Therefore, oddly enough, Donald Tusk is making a constitutional and procedural point.

Although people like Leadsom and Farage are indeed ‘confecting outrage’, as if they are personally offended by all this, the real critique is of the British constitution, which has allowed a party political infight to become a national crisis. Tusk is therefore looking to the future, in which, after Brexit, when the UK will be diminished (whatever happens next, it already has been) we must have a debate about our constitution and change it, so that decisions of national significance are not ever taken or resolved again without proper debate along established legal pathways.

Pandora’s box has been opened. There are now no answers to this national crisis that will resolve the fury that will be unleashed when a proportion of the population senses ‘betrayal’.

We are at the very beginning of a national rage.

We can personalise this, and blame Cameron, but he did it because he could and because he thought it the best way out of a difficult problem of party management. He is a trivial man, entitled, arrogant and entirely lacking statecraft, but so are many world leaders, not least the American President. The key is to assume that they WILL do damage in pursuit of partisan interest if they are allowed – and then to limit their capacity to do so.

Whoever ‘wins’ the current conflict, we (the body politic) have managed to create a situation where politics for many years hence will be defined by betrayal, bitterness, anger and resentment. Public figures are already positioning themselves to point fingers and locate blame as if the whole thing can be localised to an individual or group and, even worse, that locating blame resolves anything.

This is the fault of a political system which for too long we have assumed is functional, when it is transparently not.

JulesKahnBrown:

Donald Tusk has been calling on the UK government to engage on the Irish border since Article 50 was triggered, but they ignored him till the eleventh hour and have offered nothing but chaotic brinkmanship. As you say, it was always going to come down to this. The EU and Ireland have had a solid plan for it from the word go. Britain had nothing, and the architects of that nothing deserve, at the very least, the venting of Tusk’s understandable frustration.

The UK has far more than Brexit to resolve, and it looks a long way from doing it..