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After a slow news period post-‘inauguration’, everything accelerated again to the point where there is too much to cover in one week.

At the end of January 2021, the EU tried to block the UK’s coronavirus vaccine supply, specifically to the AstraZeneca vaccine developed in Oxford!

The EU poked at the softest, most vulnerable part of the UK-EU agreement post-Brexit: not to create division between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, covered by Article 16.

However, the EU, being short of coronavirus vaccines, briefly invoked the sacrosanct Article 16 on Friday, January 29, 2021, despite Jean-Claude Juncker’s old commitment to Ireland that there would be no hard border with a post-Brexit EU-UK trade agreement. This debate in the Irish parliament took place long before coronavirus. What a sloppy dress code:

Then, just less than a month after the UK made a full Brexit with a trade agreement, the EU did this:

On Friday, January 29, Guido Fawkes reported (emphases in the original):

As part of its plot to block vaccine exports to the UK, the EU has invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol. This has effectively removed Northern Ireland from the EU’s customs. In plain English, Article 16, the so-called safeguard clause, allows both the EU and the UK to unilaterally suspend part of the Northern Ireland Protocol (which keeps Northern Ireland in the EU’s customs territory) in specific circumstances.

Most discussion around this particular article had been how or whether the UK would use it. The fact that the EU has implemented it less than a month after coming into effect could set a big precedent.

Practically this new EU-imposed hard border won’t make a huge difference as Northern Ireland will receive their jabs via Great Britain, but this political move is extraordinary, after a week of terrible news for the Union. After years of arguing to keep Northern Ireland in its customs territory, the EU has just merrily kicked it out.

However, such an action threatened the long-standing peace agreement between North and South.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen’s action managed to unite Britain’s — and Ireland’s — Right and Left for the first time in years:

Guido’s article says of the centre-right Democratic Unionist Party:

UPDATE: The DUP have, not unsurprisingly, slammed the EU’s decision as “an incredible act of hostility”. Arlene Foster says:

“This is an incredible act of hostility. By triggering Article 16 in this manner, the European Union has once again shown it is prepared to use Northern Ireland when it suits their interests but in the most despicable manner — over the provision of a vaccine which is designed to save lives.

At the first opportunity the EU has placed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland over the supply chain of the Coronavirus vaccine.

With the European Union using Article 16 in such an aggressive and most shameful way, it is now time for our Government to step up. I will be urging the Prime Minister to act and use robust measures including Article 16 to advance the interests of Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”

As for Labour:

UPDATE II: Labour join in with the EU condemnation: Louise Haigh MP, Labour’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, commenting on the European Union’s decision to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol:

“This move is deeply destabilising and undermines the huge efforts being made to make the Protocol work.

Unilateral actions like this do nothing to aid the stability in Northern Ireland which the Protocol was designed to preserve.

The European Union must remember the Protocol depends on joint working and they share a responsibility to uphold that. They must think again, and revoke this action.”

Later that day, Guido recapped the previous five days of hassle for AstraZeneca and vaccine supply. CEO Pascal Soriot insisted that the company never made a hard and fast commitment to the EU. AstraZeneca made what are contractually known as best reasonable efforts to supply to the EU. Guido’s article has a copy of the contract, which you can read at the link:

AstraZeneca has committed to use its Best Reasonable Efforts (as defined below) to build capacity to manufacture 300 million Doses of the Vaccine, at no profit and no loss to AstraZeneca, at the total cost currently estimated to be [REDACTED] Euros for distribution within the EU [REDACTED] (the “Initial Europe Doses”), with an option for the Commission, acting on behalf of the Participating Member States, to order an additional 100 million Doses (the “Optional Doses”).

The ball was then in von der Leyen’s court:

Guido reported von der Leyen’s response:

No. There are binding orders and the contract is crystal-clear. AstraZeneca has expressly assured us in this contract that no other obligations will stand in the way of fulfilling the contract.

However, Guido explained:

The key obligation in the agreement is in Section 5.1, which “silos” production for the doses to go to the EU, making clear that the AZ obligation is only to use best reasonable efforts to manufacture the initial doses within the EU. If they are manufacturing doses outside the EU that’s irrelevant to that obligation. Has the EU just shot itself in the foot?

Guido’s founder Paul Staines is based in Waterford, Ireland. He thinks that, for the good of relations between North and South, the UK should share their AstraZeneca doses with the Republic:

He was not alone. The Scotland editor for The Spectator agreed:

Fine. Let’s make sure that Britons get their share first. That’s why the deal was set up in the first place.

By the end of last Friday, right, left, centre and the Church of England opposed the EU action:

The Archbishop’s intervention seemed to have a huge impact in Britain, which is surprising for such an atheistic nation:

The strange thing about Article 16 is that the British EU-lovers assumed that the UK Government would implement it first against the EU. That was the big stink around the Internal Market Bill, which gives the UK leeway to back out of parts of the trade agreement if the EU becomes threatening.

In the end:

Late that evening, the EU president conceded:

Boris made no mention of it on his Twitter feed.

More on the UK’s coronavirus vaccine success will follow on Monday.

For now, here’s the next EU-UK drama, which also started on Friday, January 29 — international travel:

Macron’s probably upset because the Institut Pasteur vaccine failed this week. Because of that failure, he rubbished the AstraZeneca vaccine:

As Guido said:

The French haven’t been able to produce a vaccine, and the Germans couldn’t do it without American corporate help. No wonder voices in the EU were so keen to hit out, falsely, at the success of Brexit Britain’s Oxford vaccine. Poor Little EU.

Oh, boy. Politics, politics.

2021 will be a doozy of a year.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas, despite the circumstances in various countries this year.

May I wish those who observe it in the UK and the Commonwealth a happy Boxing Day.

In Ireland, December 26 is observed as St Stephen’s Day.

You can read a history of both Boxing Day and St Stephen’s Day below:

Boxing Day – a history

St Stephen was the Church’s first martyr. His trial and death comprise Acts 7. Some might be surprised to find in the first few verses of Acts 8 that Saul of Tarsus — later St Paul the Apostle — was instrumental in Stephen’s death.

This post has two interesting videos about Stephen’s life and the example he has set for all Christians:

St Stephen, the first martyr

The next post has expositions from Acts 7 and Acts 8:1-3 about Stephen’s final hours. The post also explains the charity that made Boxing Day a long standing tradition. It ends with an exploration of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas about the Bohemian monarch’s dispensing charity ‘on the feast of Stephen’ in severe winter weather as well as the his alarming martyrdom:

December 26 — St Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day and more

I plan to post again on Christmas on Sunday. Monday is a public holiday here in the UK and Ireland because Boxing/St Stephen’s Day falls on a Saturday. The last time this happened was in 2015. Being able to extend Christmas is always a bonus.

What follows are three stories the media won’t have covered over the past week.

Call to prayer in the US — Revd Franklin Graham

Billy Graham’s son, the Revd Franklin Graham has called for a national day of prayer and fasting in the US on Sunday, October 25:

This follows his Washington Prayer March, which took place on September 26.

May the Lord hear those who call on Him and guide the United States safely in the months ahead.

Censorship — new Project Veritas video

We know that Google and other social media outlets use algorithms to promote or suppress certain topics.

James O’Keefe’s Project Veritas released another whistleblower film about Google. I’m posting the tweets, because YouTube might take down the video, which they have done before.

Ritesh Lakhar has worked for large corporations in the US. He has been a Google employee for several years and is Technical Program Manager.

He tells his story to Project Veritas:

Sounds like election interference to me.

Project Veritas posted an accompanying article which has much of the dialogue of the video along with two additional insights from Ritesh Lakhar.

First, here’s what happened on November 9, 2016. I like the way he says ‘When Trump won the first time’, implying he will win again:

“When Trump won the first time, people were crying in the corridors of Google. There were protests, there were marches. I guess, group therapy sessions for employees–organized by HR,” he said.

“There were days, like: ‘Okay, don’t come to work. We understand this is like a shocking event. Take some time off and cool off and we’ll regather again to figure out our strategy,’” he said. “That kind of stuff–I’m like–are you serious, are you kidding me?”

The second is the contrast between Google and his previous employers — manufacturers (emphasis mine):

Lakhkar said he worked for other major industrial and medical companies, and none of them had the leftist culture he deals with at Google.

“When I worked for Caterpillar or Corning, politics didn’t really matter,” he said. “You just do your job and: ‘Let’s make tractors, let’s make glass.’”

Coronavirus — doctors speak out

I have written about the German physician, Dr Heiko Schöning, before; he was arrested in London at an anti-lockdown rally in September and held without charge for 22 hours.

He and several other doctors and life scientists have formed a group called The World Doctors Alliance. They are speaking out against the way the coronavirus crisis has been handled internationally.

YouTube have removed their video, but two clips follow.

This clip is from the beginning, where some of the members, led by Dr Schöning, introduce themselves:

In the second clip, two members of the group speak:

A Dutch GP, Dr Elke De Klerk appears first. She says that there is no COVID-19 pandemic and says that it is a ‘normal flu virus’. As such, she says they plan to sue The Netherlands. She says there is a ‘really large group’ of doctors and nurses who agree. She added that they have contact with ‘87,000 nurses that do not want the vaccine’. She said that the rights of people under the Dutch constitution cannot be violated for any medical reason. She said that the ‘false positive’ PCR tests are creating ‘panic’. She said she was ‘very happy’ that Dutch media outlets are now questioning these tests.

Professor Dolores Cahill spoke next to say that, in Ireland, there have been only 100 actual deaths of, rather than with, coronavirus.

This is what she said in Ireland in September:

I haven’t formed an opinion about this group, as I don’t know too much.

At least they present an alternative perspective at a time when, increasingly, strategies and statistics just do not make sense.

Andrew Neil’s Spectator TV posted its sixth episode of The Week in 60 Minutes on Thursday, October 8, 2020:

Guests included Prof David Nabarro, World Health Organization special envoy for Covid-19; Andy Preston, mayor of Middlesbrough; Pat Leahy, political editor of the Irish Times and a few Spectator journalists.

The programme began with the status of coronavirus measures in Ireland.

Pat Leahy, political editor of the Irish Times, says that the Irish government was surprised by the recent recommended lockdown which they ultimately rejected. The Irish government were highly critical of the proposed measures, privately and publicly. Leahy explained that the head of the public health advisers has been off work because of compassionate leave, then, last Sunday, he returned and recommended another lockdown. The Irish government took it as, he says, a ‘power play’.

The government objected to the health experts’ very quick meetings amongst themselves and with government officials. Leahy said that the government were ‘annoyed’.

The government did not disagree with the recommended measures per se, but there was a fine balance to be achieved. The minister of finance warned of employment and social consequences, because a number of jobs would not be coming back. He and his staff needed to consider if other measures could be taken instead.

Neil mentioned today’s minimal COVID-19 deaths in Ireland. Leahy agreed and said that the so-called second wave has much less severe than the first. That said, the admissions to hospitals have been rising dramatically. So, there is a question about whether the second wave is different from the first. The Irish government felt they could weigh the statistics, adopting a wait-and-see approach. Leahy said that Dr Leo Varadkar, a physician who was formerly the prime minister and is now the deputy prime minister, essentially threw the nation’s chief medical officer Tony Holohan ‘under the bus’.

Leahy said that the part of Ireland’s problem was assigning decisions to scientists and doctors in the first wave earlier this year. Currently, scientific advice ‘is only one factor’ in the decision making process that the Irish government will take with regard to coronavirus measures. Leahy said that time will tell whether the public will back the government. The economic factors are such that things could change in the weeks to come.

Katy Balls was up next, advocating Swedish models that a number of Conservative MPs back. A number of backbenchers disapprove of Drs Whitty and Vallance.

Conversation then turned to the WHO’s Prof David Nabarro who says we are still in a bit of the first wave and we’re not over it, so we need to learn how to live with the virus without lockdown and the ‘closing down of economies’. What he calls ‘the middle path’ requires holding the virus at bay while allowing the economy to resume in order to make certain we can put safeguards in place, so that we can stop the virus whilst getting local ‘actors’, as well as testing and tracing, involved as much as possible and a common commitment to each other to keep everything as safe as possible. He said that lockdowns serve only to give a health service some breathing space.

Nabarro said that is what South East Asian countries are doing, also Germany and Canada. As lockdown lifts, nations can deal with increased cases ‘elegantly’.

As for Ireland, Nabarro sided halfway with the Irish government and halfway with the scientific advisors. He did caution that public buy-in was necessary for any success.

Nabarro predicted many more weeks of uncertainty but that we would feel ‘much more comfortable’ in the New Year.

Neil asked Nabarro about Prof Sunetra Gupta’s views on a milder lockdown. Nabarro said that the WHO do not advocate lockdowns as an absolute principle. (UK government: please take note!) He cited the damage done to the Caribbean and Pacific tourist industry. As a result, many more people could lapse into poverty.

Neil brought up Scotland’s coming lockdown and a possible one in the North of England.

Kate Andrews had current statistics, comparing them to Sir Patrick Vallance’s alarming case graph from the third week of September. So far, we are not close to Vallance’s projection, but the UK is higher than France’s and Spain’s cases, respectively.

The effect of local lockdowns showed a skyrocketing in positive tests (‘cases’).  According to statistics, it is possible that Leicester should have already been taken out of lockdown.

Kate Andrews showed graphs that revealed that hospitality was responsible for a very low number of cases: around four per cent, not dissimilar to this pie chart, which I cited last Friday.

Nabarro intervened, saying he preferred ‘local integrated responses’, because breaking the virus involves input from every institution, be it a factory or a house of worship. He praised Leicester for its diversity, holding it up as a model for the world.

The Spectator‘s political editor, James Forsyth, came on to comment about the former Labour ‘Red Wall’ in the North. Much of that Red Wall voted for Conservatives in December 2019. Forsyth said that lockdown will be viewed as flooding has been in recent years: even if measures taken are not political, they look as if they ARE political. Northerners see that London and the surrounding Home Counties will not be locked down, and, as a result, will suffer fewer socio-economic casualties.

Andy Preston, the Independent mayor of Middlesbrough, was the next guest. He has been positively incandescent about lockdown. The transmission is a bit choppy, but Preston said that many of his residents didn’t personally know many people who had or died of COVID-19. He added that Middlesbrough’s residents have paid more in tax whilst losing out locally. He felt that ‘the Government is doing stuff to us’.

Preston has asked for a temporary ban on in-house socialising but supports frequenting restaurants. He said that local government and the UK government need to work together on measures.

Preston said that he thought there was an ‘inside group’ of advisers to the government, with no one from Middlesbrough involved.

He said that this type of decision making could go ‘very badly wrong for the country’.

Talk then turned towards the American vice presidential debate. Freddy Gray covered this segment. He said that Mike Pence is ‘a very accomplished performer’, ‘intelligent and he spoke very fluently’. He disclosed that he has never been a Pence fan but predicted that he could be the next Republican nominee in 2024.

Neil said that a Trump-Biden virtual debate would not be the first. Nixon broadcasted in 1960 from Los Angeles. Gray said that no one knew what is going on in Trump’s mind and said that the American president had gone ‘full gonzo’.

Viewers’ questions came next.

The first had to do with successful measures against COVID-19. Nabarro commented on coronavirus success in South East Asia, which he attributed to community buy-in and no delay in taking action, which can result in more problems later.

Another viewer said that England’s mayors needed to come together with regard to England’s lockdown. Andy Preston said he would back Manchester’s Andy Burnham, a former Labour MP.

A third viewer wondered about the vote coming up this week on England’s 10 p.m. curfew. Katy Balls said she doubted whether Labour would oppose the vote, but Conservative rebels might have their chance in the weeks to come to succeed in voting against the Government. (Personally, I don’t think it will happen. Most of the Opposition support lockdown measures and restricting civil liberties.)

James Forsyth says that half the Conservative MPs really detest the Government’s coronavirus restrictions. He cited the communications surrounding them and questioned what the £12bn poured into the ‘test and trace’ programme has actually achieved. He said it was ‘not delivering’.

Andrew Neil asked about the Great Barrington Declaration, which Prof Sunetra Gupta and many other physicians signed a week ago in Massachusetts. Kate Andrews said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there would be a ‘game changer’ with no social restrictions a year from now. As such, time is not a big deal for Boris. Neil said that Boris sounded like Chauncey Gardiner. I don’t like saying this, but I tend to agree with his assessment. Boris seems off the rails right now.

Leahy had the final word, measuring the rising positive tests with closed pubs and other measures. The Irish government, he says, needs to give these new measures time to work, including buy-in from the public to avoid another lockdown. He predicts another two to three weeks.

The final question came to Nabarro about the origin of the virus. He said, in short, that there was no definitive answer. ‘You [have to] bring in independent actors’, therefore, the WHO would need ‘to bring in other staff to help’.

Hmm. Interesting.

Then, in an abrupt change of tone, Nabarro sounded a blast at certain countries, including Belarus and Spain, saying that a second wave could come soon and that no nation should be complacent.

Hmm.

Charles Stanley Wealth Managers sponsored this week’s programme. For that, we are most grateful. Agree or disagree, Spectator TV is manna in a desert of dry, one-way MSM broadcasts.

I was heartened to see two recent videos of Americans of Italian descent object to the tearing down of Christopher Columbus statues in the United States.

Everywhere else in the world — especially Spanish-speaking countries — Christopher Columbus is viewed as a hero.

Not so in today’s United States.

Language alert in the two powerful videos below.

First up is the actor, director and singer Robert Davi. After him, we have an anonymous American of Italian descent who also puts verbal pedal to the metal. Both are short and well worth watching:

Italians did not have an easy ride when they settled in America, which they, rightly, considered to be a land of promise. They — along with many other immigrants during the 19th and early 20th centuries — were not treated well at all.

In fact, a lot of European immigrants — not only Italians — were treated like dirt. They were considered to be too dark, too dirty, too unkempt, too odorous — all because they were poor.

They were called names, the likes of which are not repeated in polite company these days:

But, all of that has been forgotten.

A few factual reminders follow.

When European immigrants landed at Ellis Island outside of New York City for ‘processing’, it was no treat. Many feared the health inspection staff would send them back on the next ship. Their main worry was about married couples or families being separated during that time. A number of extended family members did not make the journey in the first place, because they had health conditions that could prohibit them from entering the country. If you couldn’t walk well or had visible ailments, you didn’t make the grade.

There was no welfare state at that time, either. So, immigrant men and boys had to find work — fast. Lodging was another issue, especially for families. Some had sponsors — relatives — in other parts of the country, e.g. the Midwest or the West Coast. Sponsored immigrants had to find the money to travel further, if they did not have it already.

So, there was no welfare provision for public housing, food or medical care.

NOTHING.

You provided for yourself and your family or you went back where you came from:

The Irish were treated poorly in the Americas even further back, starting in the days of the Thirteen Colonies:

The two groups can combine forces to fight off today’s Marxist revisionism:

The institution of Columbus Day by President Benjamin Harrison in 1892 was a national apology for the lynching of 11 Italian immigrants by bigots in New Orleans on March 14, 1891.

Even now, that is still the largest number of people lynched on a single day in the United States. Yes, they were Italian.

The statues of Christopher Columbus in the United States were a further way of apologising to Italian immigrants who had been badly treated during their early years in the United States:

The revisionists do not know enough history of North America.

If they did, they never would have come out with their nonsense:

Christopher Columbus has a lot of support, even in Canada:

A few Britons also replied to Robert Davi’s tweet, moved by his video.

For those who never learned the history of immigration over a century ago, please try to become better informed before accusing everyone else of evil.

Most immigrants had a very hard time settling in, but they worked very hard for what they earned. They also passed those values of hard work and patriotism on to their descendants.

The British government did not request a Brexit negotiation extension in June 2020.

On Friday, June 12, our chief negotiator from No. 10 tweeted:

On June 25, David Frost updated us as follows:

As of July 1, we were on our way out.

Talks continued in London on July 8:

As of the end of June, despite coronavirus, the International Monetary Fund predicts that, post-Brexit, Britain’s growth could surpass that of the EU next year:

Guido Fawkes summarises the details (red emphases in the original):

The International Monetary Fund’s new growth projection shows a global contraction of 4.9%, with every region of the world simultaneously in recession for the first time in human history. Advanced economies are projected to be hit particularly harshly by this crisis, with double digit contractions for the UK and Euro area this year at -10.2% each. Notably, however, is that in 2021 (after the UK will have left the economic orbit of the EU) the UK is set to fall by as much, then grow back faster than the cumulative Euro area.

Of course the projected 2021 growth will not make up for the 2020 recession. All advanced European countries’ economies are set to be smaller at the end of 2021 than they were at the end of 2019.  If we can believe IMF forecasting, individually over 2020 and 2021, Germany’s economy will have shrunk by 2.8%, the UK by 4.5%, France by 6.1%, and Italy and Spain both by 7.3%…

On July 1, Parliament voted to end free movement of EU citizens when the transition period ends on December 31. This is the advantage the Conservatives have with their 80-seat majority:

Guido Fawkes points out:

If he wasn’t having to deal with a deadly global pandemic, this year would be going pretty well for Boris…

Millions of EU nationals already resident in Britain are eligible for settled status, allowing them to live and work here among family and friends. The scheme opened last year and has already registered 3.3 million individuals.

The Settlement Scheme for EU nationals expires on June 30, 2021:

As for our freedom of movement in Europe, we always had it — even before joining the EU:

Last week’s UK-EU negotiations produced a win for clearing houses in the City of London, the capital’s financial centre.

On Thursday, July 9, The Telegraph reported, in part (emphases mine):

Brussels did not confirm how long the arrangement will last. It will kick in if the UK and the European Union fail to reach a Brexit deal.
The decision is likely to be seen as a climbdown by EU chiefs, who have long resented Britain’s dominance in clearing.

A power grab was launched shortly after the Brexit vote to try and force Continental firms to clear trades through hubs within the bloc, but this stalled when it became clear no other financial centre could handle the volume of activity done in the City.

Clearing houses such as LCH, ICE Clear Europe and LME Clear perform a vital role in greasing the wheels of international finance, standing between buyers and sellers to settle trades and ensure sellers get paid.

Access to London’s clearing houses for financial contracts such as swaps and futures is a key issue for European firms because the UK dominates the continent’s €735 trillion (£658 trillion) annual market. It was feared they could be denied access to crucial finance and face serious stability risks if frozen out.

In a further boost, Liam Fox, the Conservative MP for North Somerset and former Secretary of State for International Trade under Theresa May, is one of the nominees for becoming the next Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

Fox is on the right in the photo below. Pictured with him is his former adviser, Adam Werritty:

On July 10, Guido Fawkes reported:

Speaking to a Chatham House event last night, the US Trade Secretary Robert Lighthizer told the audience Fox was “one of the favourites”, lavishing praise:

“I’m an admirer of his … I’ve had many a conversation with him. I’ve even had the occasional cocktail with him. He’s smart, he knows the area, he has a good philosophy.”

Last month Lighthizer told lawmakers the US is looking to back “someone who understands the nature of the problem of free economies dealing with China”, which may not be too difficult a manifesto for Fox to get on board with, given the UK’s shift away from warm relations over Hong Kong, and an impending u-turn on Huawei.

Incidentally, Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, announced the u-turn on Huawei today, Tuesday, July 14.

On Sunday, July 12, Ireland’s new Taoiseach (prime minister, pron. ‘Tee-sock’) Micheál (pron. Mee-hull) Martin was hopeful of a transition deal between his country and Britain:

Home Secretary Priti Patel is working with the French to stop the boat people coming to the south east coast of England every day:

The UK government has launched a new transition period scheme for businesses — Check, Change, Go:

We have a lot to look forward to next year for business, and, in the case of the European Space Agency, research and exploration:

An exciting new era awaits just around the corner.

A week is a long time in politics, as the saying goes.

Much happened during the past five days, beginning with the Queen’s Speech and culminating with Boris’s new Brexit deal.

Promises made — and kept

But, first, delivering a new Brexit deal was what Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged on Tuesday, September 10, 2019. Please watch the first six minutes:

This week, he delivered on that pledge.

Queen’s Speech

From the end of September to last weekend, the anti-Boris brigade wondered whether the Queen’s Speech would go ahead on Monday, October 14:

Much to Remainers’ dismay, it did indeed take place:

With regard to the Queen not wearing the Imperial Crown, this is why:

You can read the full text of proposed legislation for the next (now current) session of Parliament — including supporting facts — here. Preserving the Union and getting Brexit done are the top two priorities. Proposed legislation for this session involves the NHS, the environment, policing and the railways, among other issues. The BBC has a good summary.

It should be noted that the government — political party — in power writes the speech for the monarch.

Advance copies are issued, but they have to remain under embargo until afterwards. Therefore, media pundits pretend they do not know what the Queen is going to say as they have to create a news story for the folks at home:

On the day, Black Rod goes to the House of Commons to summon MPs to the House of Lords for the speech:

MPs are summoned by a House of Lords official, known as Black Rod. Before entering the Commons, Black Rod has the doors shut in their face, symbolising the chamber’s independence from the monarchy.

During the speech, the Queen sets out the laws the government wants Parliament to approve. By convention, it is announced by the monarch in the presence of MPs, peers and other dignitaries in the House of Lords.

Afterwards, the House of Commons then needs to vote on whether to accept the contents of the speech. MPs normally spend five days debating whether to approve it. It is thought that they will vote on Monday or Tuesday next week.

I watched this week’s tiresome ‘debates’, which were dominated by opposition MPs’ petty speeches. One railed on about the cost of school uniforms and said that a proposed subsidy should have been included in the speech. For that reason, she does not want to approve it.

Five days of ‘debate’ over a 1,073-word speech that took around ten minutes to deliver. The mind boggles.

Brexit negotiations

Last week, Boris spent time in meetings with Ireland’s Taoiseach — Prime Minister — Leo Varadkar:

Many MPs, including some Remainers, were optimistic.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), with whom the Conservatives have had a confidence and supply agreement since the 2017 election, because of Theresa May’s decreased majority, were cautiously optimistic:

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay met with our EU negotiator Michel Barnier last Friday:

On Monday, the day of the Queen’s Speech, Barclay’s optimism continued:

Intensive rounds of meetings ensued this week:

Barclay returned to London on Wednesday to provide an update:

Then, it was back to the Continent for more meetings that lasted into the morning of Thursday, October 17.

At 9 a.m. (BST), there was finally a Brexit breakthrough, after Boris spoke to Cabinet members about it:

It was made public just after 10:30:

Jean-Claude Juncker said there was no need now for ‘prolongation’:

Boris was allowed to address EU leaders before they began their summit:

He also gave a joint press conference with Juncker:

I watched the news last night (a rare occurrence, but this was a historic moment). All the film clips showed the EU leaders greeting Boris as if he were a hero — hugs, hearty handshakes, the lot. See the 6:49 mark in the following video:

EU leaders approved the deal after he left:

A ‘Tournedos Rossini of a deal’

When Parliament’s session began yesterday morning, Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg gave an enthusiastic speech about Boris’s deal, calling it a ‘Tournedos Rossini of a deal’:

He also said (emphasis mine):

It takes out the undemocratic backstop, delivers on what the Prime Minister promised he would do. In 85 days achieved something that could not be achieved in three years.

Every single member who stood on a manifesto saying that they would respect the will of the people in the referendum can support this with confidence.

I believe him.

Unfortunately, the DUP will not be voting for it on Saturday, unless, by the time you read this, something or someone has changed their minds:

To compound the situation, hardcore anti-Boris and anti-Brexit Remainers have tricks up their sleeves.

Saturday’s session in the Commons will not be easy. I suspect that this week’s EU negotiations will appear like a walk in the park by comparison.

More next week.

Prime Minister Theresa May went to Brussels on Wednesday, April 10, 2019.

Another trip to Brussels for her, another Brexit extension for us. This one is called a ‘flextension’. It expires on Halloween. You couldn’t make it up:

There will be a progress check on June 30, but that is likely to be a mere formality:

It would be nice if this actually were the final deadline, unlike others, such as March 29 and April 12 …

… but the Brexit timetable continues to roll on and on and on:

Sadly, No Deal preparations have now stopped:

Emmanuel Macron and his EU team tried their best to block an extension, but the EU project is much bigger than Macron:

His scheduled press conference did not take place late Wednesday. Someone higher up in the EU is displeased with him:

Meanwhile, talks with Labour have not been going well. No surprise there:

The flextension is unhelpful for the UK:

That said, MPs will be happy …

… just like schoolchildren:

More Brexit news will appear as and when.

Of course, the EU will do everything possible to keep the UK’s money coming in. It looks as if this will be until the end of the year.

As I write in the middle of the afternoon, this is the current status of Brexit with regard to an EU extension.

On Monday night, Yvette Cooper’s Bill No. 5 passed the House, preventing No Deal from the British side. PM Theresa May must now seek a further extension date with the EU to at least June 30, but probably longer:

Today’s parliamentary debates involved discussing an extension until June 30, possibly longer. Talks also continued between Conservatives and Labour to arrive at a way forward for Brexit conditions.

EU leaders meet on Wednesday, April 10, to discuss whether to grant the UK another Article 50 extension. Currently, the deadline is Friday, April 12, however, this is likely to be extended.

Meanwhile, MPs advocating a No Deal on Friday are being realistic. Germany already has proposals for No Deal deals with Britain in that event:

In any event, PM May went to Berlin and Paris to propose a new extension date with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, respectively.

This morning, France’s finance minister Bruno Le Maire did not think that there was any rationale for a further extension without solid justification. The Guardian reported that he said:

There is need for clarity on why the delay and how it will in the end facilitate an agreement.

I prefer an agreement. But Theresa May should give us the reasons why she wants the delay and these reasons must be credible.

EU ministers were meeting in Luxembourg today, where Brexit was on the agenda ahead of tomorrow’s summit. Germany’s Michael Roth, France’s Amelie de Montchalin and Ireland’s Simon Coveney all expressed their frustration and hoped that May had a decent justification for a further extension.

After the EU ministers met, they held a press conference. George Ciamba, the Romanian foreign affairs minister, said that No Deal was still a possibility. He said that May’s plan — the Withdrawal Agreement (a treaty) — was the only way forward in terms of exiting the EU. Michel Barnier, the UK’s chief negotiator from the EU, said that a long extension — e.g. until the end of the year — might be reliant on the addition of customs union membership to the Political Declaration accompanying the Withdrawal Agreement. UGH! He affirmed that the EU does not want No Deal.

He also said that the current Withdrawal Agreement was final — no further negotiations on the Irish border:

Just before lunchtime, PM May arrived in Berlin to meet with Chancellor Merkel.

While they greeted each other and posed for a photo op, Conservative MP Liam Fox, Britain’s international trade secretary issued a letter firmly stating his opposition to a customs union. He is entirely correct:

It is thought that French president Emmanuel Macron could say on Wednesday that the UK will not be granted an extension beyond December 31 and that three-monthly compliance checks on Britain’s progress might be obligatory.

More to follow tomorrow.

This is, according to the young woman at the end of the following video, the second year in a row where Syrians have been able to celebrate the season of our Saviour’s birth:

The video was filmed in mid-December when the tree lighting ceremony took place in Damascus. This particular celebration was sponsored and organised by the Syrian tourism board.

What joy there is among the Syrians. Meanwhile, we in the West are less filled with cheer, even to the point of being embarrassed to celebrate Christmas.

When people’s lives have been affected by war, they really do appreciate what they lost during those years. This is something for us Westerners to reflect on during our largely peaceful era.

As December 26 is Boxing Day in Britain and parts of the Commonwealth, here is a bit of history about the day after Christmas:

Boxing Day – a history

In Ireland, this is St Stephen’s Day. Find out more about the Church’s first martyr below:

December 26 — St Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day and more (the money box, details on St Stephen and Good King Wenceslas (2017)

For those who are still enjoying Christmas, have a wonderful day. May that joyful spirit carry on for a long time to come!

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