MPs Vote to Delay Brexit

MPs have voted today in the House of Commons to delay Brexit which may potentially delay the planned leaving date of 29 March when the UK was to leave the EU. 413 MPs voted to delay Brexit against 202 who opposed the move, giving a majority of 211. Delaying the Brexit process could be seen as a major humiliation for Theresa May, the Prime Minister, and the Government confirmed that preparations were still being made for a no-deal Brexit.

Government Faces Second Major Defeat on Brexit Deal

The House of Commons has rejected the Government’s proposed Brexit deal after only 242 MPs supported it and 391 MPs opposed it. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, has confirmed that there will now be a free vote in the Commons on whether to leave the EU with no deal.

UK Gives Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Diplomatic Protection

Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, has confirmed that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been given diplomatic protection. The unusual move is intended to secure the release of the joint UK-Iranian citizen who the British Government have claimed is being denied medical treatment.

Jeremy Hunt said in a statement:

“Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an innocent woman who has spent the last three years in an Iranian jail, separated from her daughter and husband. We have been working hard to secure her release but despite repeated efforts have not been successful. We have not even been able to secure her the medical treatment she urgently needs despite assurances to the contrary.

So I have today decided that the UK will take a step that is extremely unusual and exercise diplomatic protection. This represents formal recognition by the British Government that her treatment fails to meet Iran’s obligations under international law and elevates it to a formal State to State issue.

I have not taken this decision lightly. I have considered the unacceptable treatment Nazanin has received over three years, including not just lack of access to medical treatment but also lack of due process in the proceedings brought against her. My decision is an important diplomatic step which signals to Tehran that its behaviour is totally wrong. It is unlikely to be a magic wand that leads to an overnight result. But it demonstrates to the whole world that Nazanin is innocent and the UK will not stand by when one of its citizens is treated so unjustly.

Iran is one of the oldest civilisations in the world. I know there are many in Iran who understand the unjustness of this situation. No government should use innocent individuals as pawns for diplomatic leverage so I call on Iran to release this innocent woman so she can be reunited with her family.”

Hizballah Group Banned in the UK

Sajid Javid

The measures introduced by the Government to ban the terrorist groups of Hizballah, Ansaroul Islam and Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam Wal-Muslimin (JNIM) have come into force today. It will now be an offence under the 2000 Terrorism Act to either be a member of these groups or to canvass support for the groups.

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, said in a statement:

“My priority as Home Secretary is to protect the British people. As part of this, we identify and ban any terrorist organisation which threatens our safety and security, whatever their motivations or ideology which is why I am taking action against several organisations today.

Hizballah is continuing in its attempts to destabilise the fragile situation in the Middle East – and we are no longer able to distinguish between their already banned military wing and the political party. Because of this, I have taken the decision to proscribe the group in its entirety.”

Jeremy Corbyn Confirms Labour Will Back a Second Referendum

Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Opposition, has confirmed that the Labour Party will now support a second referendum after the party’s alternative Brexit plan was defeated in the House of Commons.

Corbyn, who is thought to have been encouraged to call for the second vote by senior colleagues on the shadow front bench, said:

“We will back a public vote in order to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit or a disastrous no deal outcome. We will also continue to push for the other available options to prevent those outcomes, including a close economic relationship based on our credible alternative plan or a general election.”

Chris Williamson Suspended From Labour Party

Chris Williamson, the Labour MP for Derby North, has been suspended from the party after allegations that he made antisemitic comments. Williamson, who has denied the allegations, will be suspended until investigations are completed.

Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the party, condemned the words used by Williamson, saying:

“Chris Williamson has produced a long-winded and heavily caveated apology. It is not good enough. If it was in my gift I would have removed the whip from him already.”

The Board of Deputies of British Jews also condemned Williamson, saying:

“We reject Chris Williamson’s half-hearted apology, which appears in any case to have been written by someone else.”

Ian Austin MP Resigns From Labour Party

Ian Austin, the MP for Dudley North, has quit the Labour Party and said that he is “ashamed” of the party. Austin has represented the constituency since 2005 and won by a majority of just 22 votes in 2017.

“I grew up listening to my dad, who was a refugee from the Holocaust, teaching me about the evils of hatred and prejudice. One of the main reasons I joined the Labour Party as a teenager here in Dudley more than 35 years ago was to fight racism and I could never have believed I would be leaving the Labour party because of racism too.”

Tom Watson, the party’s deputy leader, said that the news was “a serious blow” to the Labour Party. Austin said that he didn’t intend to join the new Independent Group of 11 MPs, who had left the Conservative and Labour parties, due to a difference of opinion on Brexit.

Joan Ryan Becomes Eighth MP to Join New Independent Group

Joan Ryan, the MP for Enfield North, has quit the Labour Party to join the seven other former MPs from the party to sit as an independent group.

Ryan announced her decision on Twitter, saying:

“After 4 decades, I have made the terribly difficult decision to resign from the Labour Party. It is the greatest honour of my life to represent the people of #EnfieldNorth. I will continue to represent and speak up for them as a member of the @TheIndGroup of MPs #ChangePolitics”

Honda Cut 3,500 Jobs in Swindon

Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, has said that the announcement by Honda of 3,500 job losses is “devastating” and pledged Government help for the Swindon area. Honda said that the job losses weren’t Brexit related and was instead because of global market changes.

Clark said in a statement:

“Honda have announced, as part of a global restructuring, plans to close their Swindon plant in 2021; and instead manufacture and export the new Civic model into Europe from Japan. As Honda have said, this is a commercial decision based on unprecedented changes in the global market. Regardless, this is a devastating decision for Swindon and the UK.

This news is a particularly bitter blow to the thousands of skilled and dedicated staff who work at the factory, their families and all of those employed in the supply chain.

I will convene a taskforce in Swindon with local MPs, civic and business leaders as well as trade union representatives to ensure that the skills and expertise of the workforce is retained, and these highly valued employees move into new skilled employment.

The automotive industry is undergoing a rapid transition to new technology. The UK is one of the leaders in the development of these technologies and so it is deeply disappointing that this decision has been taken now.”

Rebecca Long Bailey, the Shadow Secretary for Business, said in a statement:

“This is devastating news, first and foremost for Honda employees and their families, but also for the jobs across the supply chain and the impact on the local economy in Swindon.

This government has failed to create an environment of business confidence. The Tories’ austerity programme has failed workers and businesses, and they continue to show a total lack of vision or plans for investment in our future.

With Honda saying Brexit was not a factor, this Tory government shoulders yet more responsibility for failing to create an environment of business confidence. Businesses have lost faith in the government’s austerity programme and total lack of vision or investment for our future.”