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Westminster and Holyrood lock horns over Continuity Bill

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Continuity Bill

The UK and Scottish governments are sparring over a verdict delivered by Supreme Court judges who ruled that parts of Scotland’s Brexit legislation would not be allowed to stand. The judges said the Continuity Bill “as a whole” was within Holyrood’s scope, but that MSPs had acted outside their powers in relation to one section.

The Scottish Parliament passed its own Brexit bill in March after a row with UK ministers over Westminster’s EU Withdrawal Bill. But the case was then referred to the court by UK government law officers.

The judges also ruled that changes which were later made to the UK legislation whereby a special schedule of protected legislation was added, preventing MSPs from modifying them – meant a further 21 provisions now could not stand.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said the court had “provided much-needed legal clarity” and that the bill “goes beyond the powers of the Scottish Parliament”.

But Scottish Brexit Secretary Mike Russell claimed the UK government had “changed the rules of the game midway through the match” in an “act of constitutional vandalism”.

The UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Legal Continuity) (Scotland) Bill– known as the “continuity bill” – was passed in the Scottish Parliament with only the Conservatives and a single Lib. Dem. MSP voting against it.

It was drafted as an alternative to Westminster’s EU Withdrawal Bill, which MSPs refused to give their consent to following a row over how powers currently exercised from Brussels will be used after Brexit. However, Holyrood Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh wrote a memo saying the bill was “not within the legislative ambit of the parliament”.

This was denied by the Scottish government’s legal advisers, but paved the way for UK law officers to apply to the Supreme Court to provide “legal clarity” about its validity.

A two-day hearing was held in London in July, with the UK government arguing that the bill must be rescinded. However, the Scottish government’s case was backed by lawyers from the Welsh and Northern Irish governments.

Supreme Court Judge, Lady Hale rejected many of the UK government’s arguments – but found that parts of the bill were invalid.

She further added: “the whole of the Scottish bill would not be outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament”, but that one section – relating to MSPs having to give consent for UK Brexit laws – was not within the scope of the Scottish Parliament.

She also pointed out that the UK government had subsequently made changes to its legislation which added certain provisions to a protected schedule of the Scotland Act as soon as it became a law, meaning it cannot be altered by MSPs.

This means the Continuity Bill was largely valid when it was passed by MSPs in March, but a number of sections now could not stand.

Russell added that: “This is an act of constitutional vandalism but that does not take away from the fact this judgment makes clear MSPs were perfectly entitled to prepare Scotland’s laws for Brexit at the time this bill was passed.”

Mundell said this was “quite wrong”, insisting that it had “always been clear” what the UK legislation would do.

He argued that plans to protect the UK legislation from modification by MSPs were drafted in 2017, and that amendments made after the Holyrood bill had passed were just an extension of this process.

The court ruling suggests that the EU Withdrawal Act remains the sole basis on which Scotland’s statute order will be prepared for Brexit. MSPs however, could bring the continuity bill back for reconsideration at Holyrood, provided they take action on the areas highlighted by the Supreme Court. In light of disunity between Tories, the Scotts would find it rather difficult to convincingly implement provisions of the continuity bill as per their own demands.

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Diamond Princess: UK Repatriates Its Citizens from Coronavirus Stuck Cruise

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Stepping aboard on cruise Diamond Princess, no one would have had in their minds that coronavirus outbreak would leave them strangled for days. Stuck in Japan with no immediate help, dozens of Britons have finally arrived at Arrowe Park Hospital in the UK, where they will be quarantined for two weeks.

A woman amongst 30 British passengers and two Irish citizens, who returned home, gestured a heart sign with her hands in jubilation. Besides, another gave an “okay” signal through a coach window. All of them will undergo medical checks in an accommodation kept separate from the main hospital entrance building in Wirral.

The commuters in three buses wore masks, while medical professionals were seen in white hazmat suits. Arrowe Park’s chief executive, Janelle Holmes said that the new arrivals would be “safe, well-managed and comfortable”.

The coronavirus has already left hundreds dead and thousands infected, with a possible vaccination still not known. The 32 evacuees took off from the Haneda airport in Tokyo late on Friday, and landed at Boscombe Down Ministry of Defence base near Salisbury, Wiltshire. All tested negative before boarding the flight.

On Diamond Princess, some 634 passengers and crew caught the SARS-like illness — the numbers comprising more than half of the cases reported outside China. The news came, as Italy reported its second death from coronavirus.

Among Britons, Alan and Vanessa Sandford said: “I think I might struggle a bit with this second lot of 14 days. You can’t get on with your life, everything’s on hold, and I’ve got this certificate that says I’m negative for the virus and nobody on the aircraft is going to be anything other than negative, so it just seems excessive.”

“But I understand as well that people are nervous about having people back in the country,” he added.

In the UK, some 5,885 people have been tested for coronavirus, of which only 9 tested positive.

When will the coronavirus outbreak stop? When will the pace of life return to normal? When will the virus stop affecting the global economies?

These are just some of the questions that have the word desperation hidden in them. And every time a report claims death or a country reports presence of coronavirus, the hope for a possible solution becomes even more impassable.

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Storm Dennis: Weather Destruction to Double Up with Rain and Floods

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Storm Dennis: Weather Destruction to Double Up with Rain and Floods

Life for the UK appears to be getting dramatic with time, as it prepares for the second weekend of weather destruction. The country is expected to be battered by storm Dennis, which is expected to hit with winds of nearly 70mph and more than a month’s rain could fall in some places in just two days.

Hundreds of homes are at a risk of flooding again, but the experts have warned that the damage could be much more than the harm done by storm Ciara, last weekend. Amber and yellow warning signs for rain and winds were in place across the UK.

Forecasters have predicted that the entire Yorkshire could experience up to 80mm of rain in just 48 hours. On Saturday, the military was being sent to Calderdale, West Yorkshire to support and boost the preparations for the disaster. The Calderdale council said that his teams were preparing hard for storm Dennis.

The resources, however, were stretched due to the impact of last weekend’s storm, and additional assistance was called from the 4th Infantry Brigade. The council said that the troops will be supporting organizations, residents and business on ground.

Meanwhile, hundreds of flights were cancelled by British Airways and easyJet, as well as from London Luton Airport, for safety reasons. The two airlines called their passengers to check their websites for latest updates.

“We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact of the disruption for our customers and to arrange alternative travel,” said a spokeswoman for easyJet, which has cancelled 234 flights.

However, British Airways said that most of their flights would “operate as planned”, but they were facing disruptions as “all airlines [were] flying to and from the UK today”. They stated, “We are merging a small number of Heathrow short-haul flights to the same destination and using larger aircraft where possible to minimise disruption.”

The Met Office also warned of a “danger to life” due to potential flooding in some locations. “Homes and businesses are likely to be flooded, causing damage to some buildings,” the forecaster warned. The country is expected to witness rainfall of up to 120mm, which is more than that usually falls in a month.

While the storm Dennis is yet to arrive, the country is already coping up with the impact of storm Ciara, which flooded 800 homes and left half a million people without electricity. Several parts still lack proper facilities for protection from floods, including Yorkshire. Citing that, the safety of people remains under an even larger risk.

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Former Goldman Sachs Employee – Rishi Sunak Succeeds Sajid Javid as Chancellor

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Sajid Javid

The City of Westminster has been taken aback by the resignation of Sajid Javid amid the ongoing cabinet reshuffles by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The ex-Chancellor rejected the orders of Johnson to fire his team of aides. He added that such a condition could never be accepted by any “self-respecting minister” and that his advisers had been working “incredibly hard”, so he could not think of them being replaced.

The resignation letter of Javid reads, “I believe it is important as leaders to have trusted teams that reflect the character and integrity that you would wish to be associated with.”

Succeeding Sajid Javid will be former Goldmann Sachs employee – Rishi Sunak, who successfully entered the Parliament in 2015. Prior to taking up this position, the 39-year-old British politician was serving as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury since July 2019.

The takeover is remarkable for someone who was serving as just a junior housing minister seven months ago.

The news of Sajid Javid’s resignation comes as a shock as the ex-Chancellor had to deliver his first budget next month. He has taken the appointment of Rishi Sunak in an optimistic sense, saying that Mr Sunak and the rest of the government has his “full support”. From here on, the Chancellor and Prime Minister will be having a joint team of economic advisers.

Besides this major change in Chancellor position, the cabinet is witnessing several modifications. Former Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is serving as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Baroness Morgon has been replaced by new culture secretary – Paymaster General Oliver Dowden.

Among others leaving the government are Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom and Housing Minister Esther McVey. With this reshuffling, the strength of women in the full cabinet has dropped from seven to six. At a time, when men hold majority positions in the UK Cabinet, this plunge raises serious questions about gender disparity in power positions.

Moreover, tensions between Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid state that the former was more interested in gaining political control and did not consider keeping valuable personnel, which is certainly not expected from the Prime Minister of any country.

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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Boris Johnson Supports US Peace Plan

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Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

 A spokesperson for Prime Minister Boris Johnson has affirmed the PM’s decision to support the US Peace Plan about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict along with the two-state solution in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The two prime ministers had met for a discussion over improving trade between the two countries and advancing regional peace efforts. Proposing a peace plan for the conflict last week, the US President, Donald Trump referred to the creation of a Palestinian state with a capital in east Jerusalem. This plan was rejected by the Palestinian leaders, the Arab League and the Islamic Cooperation Organization.

As per the Prime Minister’s Office, Johnson put forth that the UK would support an internationally recognised two-state solution.

Right after releasing the plan, Trump met Johnson, who considered the proposed solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be “a positive step”. As per Foreign Minister Dominic Raab, the plan was “clearly a serious proposition, reflecting a lot of time and effort.”

Foreign Office Minister Andrew Morrison rejected the plan on the grounds that the US must be given proper time to consider its proposed plan. He added that “this is not our plan” and Britain was not delivering full support to it. Addressing the parliament, Morrison said, “Of course we welcome this plan. This doesn’t mean we endorse its contents.”

Becoming the first trading partner of the UK post Brexit, Israel has shown its future trade prospects with the UK. After the US and China, the UK is now the third largest trading associate of Israel. Moreover, Israel and the UK are working on multiple national security issues currently.

Prior to the UN Security Council vote scheduled for June 2020, the UN draft resolution associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has softened its criticism towards the Peace Plan proposed by Trump. The draft recently released does not mention the US as the propositor. Although using a milder tone, the latest draft would not necessarily avoid a US veto in the coming days.

Post the official execution of Brexit, Johnson’s support to the US peace plan can be considered as a tactic to remain in the good books of the US President as the decision of trade deal depends on the US. Based on the UK’s previous statements on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is evident that most policies introduced in the past were taken by the country after considering the sensitiveness of its relations with moderate Arab allies.

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Storm Ciara: Gusty Wind and Floods Disturb Pace of Life Across UK

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Storm Ciara: Gusty Wind and Floods Disturb Pace of Life Across UK

Causing severe disruption and rattling the pace of life across the UK, gusty winds of storm Ciara have knocked down properties, led to cancellation of trains, flights and even sporting events until now.

The stormy winds blowing at a speed of more than 90mph have also reportedly resulted in the loss of power connection in some areas. And the disturbance is likely to bring a major drop in temperatures as well. As per the reports, there is a considerable chance of blizzards in Northern Ireland and Scotland along with 20cm of snow.

The Met office has issued yellow warnings for wind and snow for a major part of Scotland and informed that the warnings will stay in place for until midnight on Tuesday. “It’s going to stay very unsettled. We have got colder air coming through the UK and will be feeling a real drop in temperatures,” Met Office meteorologist Alex Burkill said.

Destruction by Storm Ciara

As reported, several communities in the north of England suffered because of floods caused by the storm. The list of places included Appleby in Cumbria, Bury in Greater Manchester and parts of West Yorkshire.

By Sunday evening more than 220 flood warnings stayed active across England. Besides, transportation services were also hit as no trains ran on the west coast line between Manchester and Scotland.

Unfortunately, Lancashire was in the pick of the things with as many as 192 reports of flooding coming from Blackpool, Whalley, Longton and Rossendale. In West Yorkshire, the fire service said it attended 106 incidents and received 671 emergency calls about flooding in Calder Valley, Kirklees, Bradford and Leeds.

People in Cader Valley also said that the fast blowing winds and floods swept away cars and engulfed defences that had been set up at a cost of tens of millions of pounds since flooding back in 2015.

“When we got up this morning it was evidently flooding from eight to 9am but within an hour or two the river was about to breach its banks and abandoned cars were being swept away,” said Ben Myers, an author in the Calderdale town of Mytholmroyd who has written about the impact of flooding.

Meanwhile in Scotland, 62 flood warnings remained in place as of Sunday evening. And a part of cafe and a guest house collapsed into a river in Hawick in the Borders. The Police later informed that no one got injured in the incident.

Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) said, Storm Ciara could cause a further flooding risk following river embankments being broken on Sunday. The blueprint of the storm has suggested that even more difficulties would arise, and a heavy snowfall is expected from about 08:00 GMT.

To tackle with the situation a response team has been set up at the Traffic Scotland National Control Centre in South Queensferry. “We are also being told to expect snow and high winds throughout Monday and on Tuesday morning, so there is the potential for significant disruption on the trunk road network, as well as other modes of transport,” Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said.

Storm Ciara has potentially damaged properties and disturbed the pace of human lives across the UK. But the damage control across Britain has minimized the risk to life. Yet it is still important that people keep on checking the latest information before they leave their homes in order to stay safe from any risk to their lives.

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