November 16th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Extinction Rebellion: So, it's goodnight to us and a big welcome to mega-bucks

EDITORIAL A second chance to secure Australia's future

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Early UK election will be another Brexit vote

CANBERRA OBSERVED Struggle is on not to let censorship have the last word

GENDER POLITICS Children are being given drugs that are dangerous even for elite athletes

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Thoroughbreds are literally racing for their lives

POLITICAL COMMENTARY Tony Abbott continues faithful to the broad Liberal church

MILITARY HISTORY Timor-Leste a free nation 20 years after INTERFET

CLIMATE SCIENCE V XR Is a tipping point close or is the emergency contrived?

RENEWABLE ENERGY Whatever happened to the World Solar Challenge?

ASIAN AFFAIRS How long has China's Red Dynasty really got?

HUMOUR Vote 1 for the Troposphere

MUSIC Genre fatigue: Jazz rock arrived with a bang, left with a whisper

CINEMA Terminator: Dark Fate: The heart that makes us human

CINEMA Ride Like a Girl: Celebrating family, faith and fortitude

BOOK REVIEW Quirky look at grand-scale egoism

BOOK REVIEW Clear critique of flaws of globalism



NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal to go to High Court

South Park Calls Out Transgender Takeover of Women's Sports

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Early UK election will be another Brexit vote

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, November 16, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has advanced towards Brexit by securing an in-principle vote in the House of Commons, followed by an overwhelming vote for a general election on December 12.

 Boris is keeping us all awake.

The election will finally establish whether Britain is to withdraw from the European Union (EU).

Mr Johnson put his new Brexit deal to Parliament on October 22. It proposed that there be no border between the Irish Republic, a member of the EU, and Northern Ireland, which remains part of the UK.

But goods crossing the Irish Sea would require documentation establishing their state of origin, and existing trade arrangements with the EU would remain in place pending the negotiation of a long-term trading agreement between Britain and the EU.

The second reading of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill was carried by 329 votes to 299. Nineteen members of the opposition Labour Party voted for the Bill, giving the PM a 30-vote majority. This was the first time the House of Commons had voted to withdraw from the EU.

A day later, when he tried to push for an early third reading, when amendments can be moved, he was defeated by 14 votes: 308 votes to 322.

Later, he tried to get the House of Commons to agree to a December 12 election but was defeated again. But, after the Prime Minister gave undertakings that a no-deal Brexit was off the table, the Labour opposition along with the pro-EU Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Nationalist Party switched their position to support an early election.


The European Union has agreed to a request from the British Parliament for a three-month delay to Brexit until the end of January 2020.

Close observers of the British political scene had discerned a noticeable shift in public attitudes towards Brexit over recent weeks, partly attributed to Mr Johnson’s frustration at the refusal of the House of Commons to agree to the terms of Brexit, but also due to the ongoing political crisis that had sapped public confidence in politicians and was damaging the economy.

Since the failure of the UK Parliament to implement the 2016 Brexit referendum, the political debate has become increasingly polarised between those who want Britain to withdraw from the EU regardless of the consequences, and calls by pro-EU MPs for a second referendum to reverse the first result.

Despite large demonstrations for a second referendum in London and other cities, it has been strongly opposed by the Conservatives, the Democratic Unionist Party and independents, who together have a majority in Parliament, and therefore has no chance of being adopted.

The effect of the delay in getting legislation through the UK Parliament is both a sense of Brexit-fatigue, and deepening resentment that Parliament is frustrating the will of the people by refusing to implement the 2016 referendum result.

A perceptive analysis of the breakthrough achieved by Boris Johnson was given by John Rentoul, chief political commentator with the left-leaning Independent.

He wrote: “It is worth pausing to recognise the significance of what has just happened. The Prime Minister was entitled to point out, in his comments after the vote, that ‘just a few weeks ago, hardly anybody believed we could reopen the withdrawal agreement’.

“Johnson’s repeated defeats in Parliament, and his repeated insistence that he wasn’t going to do things he was eventually forced into doing, distracted attention from his achievements.

“First, he negotiated a deal that few thought possible.

“Theresa May did that too, as everyone has now long forgotten, but she didn’t get close to winning the approval of the House of Commons. Now Johnson has succeeded.

“He has judged the mood of the House better than most commentators. I certainly thought there was no prospect of winning a majority if the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] remained opposed.

“Perhaps it wasn’t judgement – it may just have been desperation, with nowhere else to turn – but he did it.

“I don’t know how much he understood about the mood of exhaustion among Labour MPs, but he did grasp the effectiveness of the slogan, ‘Get Brexit Done’.”

Now that the House of Commons has agreed to a December election – before Britain has withdrawn from the EU – it is inevitable that the election will determine whether Britain does in fact withdraw from the EU.

Strangely, the leaders of both parties have said that Britain should withdraw from the EU, although it is unclear what form of Brexit would be acceptable to Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

On the other hand, the position of the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish Nationalist Party are very clear. They want to see Britain remain in the European Union, despite the referendum vote in 2016 to withdraw, and the recent vote of the House of Commons to leave the EU.

A further complication is the presence of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, which supports an unconditional withdrawal from the EU.

The minor parties will undoubtedly take votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, but it looks certain that the electorate will re-elect Boris Johnson.

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