What The Fuck Is Going On In Politics: The Weekly Rundown

What will Boris Johnson’s next move be? What are the scandals with Chick-Fil-A or the NBA about? What exactly is going on between Syria and Turkey? Here’s everything you need to know.

By Lavinia Troiani and Allen Wesson

National Politics: 

What are the potential Brexit scenarios that might unfold in the near future?

On Thursday 17th of October, the Prime Minister and the EU agreed on an amended deal, which reflected changes to the Irish Backstop. Following this, today, Saturday 19th October, this deal had to be reviewed and voted on amongst the House of Commons. Today’s debates led to for one,  an amendment, called the Letwin amendment, to the procedure that had initially been agreed on. The Letwin amendment delays the vote on the Prime Minister’s deal, this, to make sure that the legislation (which is the bill validating the withdrawal agreement) needed to implement the new deal is safely passed. This decision meant that Mr Johnson is now required to ask the EU for an extension to Article 50 until 31st January 2020. This therefore makes the previously existing possibility of the UK leaving the Eu by default on 31st October practically impossible due to legislation issues. Indeed,  if MPs vote in favour of the deal proposed by the Prime Minister, more time would be needed for this one to be ratified and laws to be established. 

Currently, MPs are in favour of the Letwin amendment by a majority of 322 votes, meaning the vote on Mr Johnson’s deal will not happen today.

Now it is key to understand what the Prime Minister is likely to do: by law, he is meant to ask for an extension, however, he has claimed he did not want to. He has also said that the legislation for enacting the deal will begin early next week: this means we could see a vote on a second reading (that is a draft of the bill) on Tuesday night. The vote would show MPs’ support for the deal or not. 

Nonetheless, the following scenarios might still happen: 

1.     No Deal Brexit 

There are various scenarios that could also lead to a no-deal Brexit:

a.     No extension by the EU 

Even if the Prime Minister asks for an extension, that does not mean the EU will grant it.  

b.    Prime Minister goes against the Benn Act 

Boris Johnson is against the idea of asking for an extension, so there has been some speculation on the possibilities of finding loopholes to circumvent the Benn Act. However, if the Government refuses to comply with the law, legal challenges could arise as well as a potential vote of no-confidence. Moreover, if legislation for enacting the deal finishes by 31st October, which is very unlikely, there should not be the need for an extension.

4.     Default Brexit 

Whatever negotiations are taking place, one thing remains: the UK is set to leave the EU by the 31st of October at 11pm. This means that if nothing has been agreed by then, the UK will just leave without a deal. In the absence of a transition period (which is gained through a deal), businesses, individuals and public bodies would have to implement no-deal contingency plans. 

5.     No Brexit

There is always the possibility of Brexit not happening at all: The European Court of Justice declared that Article 50 could be revoked by the UK at any point before 11pm on the 31st of October. This would not require a vote from the other 27 EU countries. However, it would probably need a vote by the House of Commons and this option was never considered by the Prime Minister.

Other possible scenarios

1.     A General Election – Brexit has already ended the careers of two Prime Ministers, and unless Boris Johnson manages to brilliantly pull it off, there’s the very real possibility that a General Election will be called in the next few weeks, which would threaten his position. We’ll know more about this at the end of this week, so stay tuned for our next rundown.

2.     A second referendum – referendums are long to plan and prepare, so for it to happen at all the UK needs to ask for an extension. A second referendum would also require the assent of Parliament, and although some MPs are in favour of a second referendum, it still remains a contentious subject both in the House of Commons and within the population at large. 

How has the UK reacted to the Syria/Turkey/US situation?

The UK has stopped granting arms export licenses to Turkey to avoid weapons being used for military operations in Syria. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has condemned the invasion of Syria by the Turkish military, which he believes will dramatically worsen the humanitarian crisis already unfolding in the region. The Foreign Secretary is also considering possible sanctions against Turkey. He said that the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria was reckless and could have catastrophic consequences, notably emboldening ISIS and strengthening the alliance between Russia and the current Syrian leader Bashar Al-Assad. 

What are the main things to remember from the Queen’s speech?

First of all, what’s the Queen’s Speech? It is an annual speech written by the government and given by the Queen that sets out the legislative programme for the year ahead. Essentially, it’s the Queen reciting a list of bills, and it’s thought to be quite boring. Here’s what to remember from it:

-To no one’s surprise, one of the main points raised touched on the priority to secure Brexit by the 31st of October. 

-Funding for the NHS was also cited as a priority in the aftermath of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU;  echoing Johnson’s promise when he came into office to upgrade 20 hospitals. There was no specific policy objective cited here, just a general point about rallying to the health service, very much a given in British Politics and not surprising at all.

-The environment was also an issue raised in the speech. Plans for reducing pollution were notably discussed. 

-Harsher sentencing laws were also evoked, which will see the most serious offenders spend a longer time in custody to reflect on the severity of their crimes. It is presumed this will be a flagship policy for Home Secretary Priti Patel, relating to the policy of 20,000 extra police officers.

International Politics:

Why are the Kurds and Turkey in conflict with each other? 

The answer to this question requires a bit of historical context. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War, the Treaty of Sèvres divided the Middle East into various provinces that were ruled by European colonial powers, namely France and the UK.

After decolonisation, those provinces became states. It was argued that the divisions had been made with ethnic and religious differences in mind, but there were some notable exceptions to this rule. 

The Kurdish are a stateless ethnic group native to the mountain regions around Iraq, Syria and Turkey, who have no homeland due to the colonial legacy of arbitrary land division. Throughout most of the 20th century, the Turkish nation refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Kurds, referring to them only as ‘mountain Turks’. 

The conflict between nationalist Kurdish rebels from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Turkish government forces has raged for over 40 years, and the withdrawal of the US military from the region has allowed Turkey to launch several fatal attacks targeting Kurdish troops and civilians. If you want to know a little bit more about Trump’s decision and its potential consequences, read our last rundown

What is/will be Russia’s role in the Turkey/Syria/US debacle?

Russia is likely to replace America as the key player and power broker in Syria. The country is increasing its active role in the Middle East and its alliance with the Assad regime is only going to be strengthened in the aftermath of America’s retreat. Russia will happily fill the power vacuum left by the US and secure its place as a crucial global actor in the region. 

What is this Uganda and Chick-Fil-A scandal?

Before getting into Chick-Fil-A’s possible involvement in all this, it is important to understand the scandal itself first. LGBTQ rights are very much non-existent in Uganda, but recently the government proposed a new law with regards to homosexuality: the sexual preference would go from being punishable by life imprisonment to a death sentence when an individual was found “guilty”. This law was actually drafted back in 2012, but could not be ratified then due to a technicality, and recently, lawmakers have been pushing for this law to finally be put in place. 

Now with regards to Chick – Fil- A, for now, it does not seem they have any official link to this. Back in 2012, the then CEO of the American fast-food chain showed public support for the biblical definition of the family unit. Moreover, that same year, the chain allegedly made charitable donations to the American National Christian Organisation, which rumours say could have then been used for a preacher to go to Uganda and help the lawmakers with the initial draft of the law. 

The opening of a Chick-Fil-A in Reading last week (Britain’s first ever Chick-Fil-A restaurant) was met with a call for a boycott from LGBTQ activists as the fast-food chain ties to the Ugandan government’s homophobic legislation were speculated about on social media. However, there has currently been no evidence of Chick-Fil-A’s involvement in the implementation of such a law, or any financial transactions made directly to the Ugandan government. This controversy therefore seems to be fueled by rumours and outdated information. 

What happened with China and the NBA?

Earlier this month, the Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey was forced to delete a tweet supporting the protesters in Hong Kong, which was swiftly followed by an official apology from both  Daryl Morey and the NBA’s official channels. The reason why the NBA was so quick to apologise for having a staff member express an opinion on social media is because of the economic ties between China and the NBA. Basketball is a very lucrative industry in China due to the sport’s massive popularity in the country, and the Chinese Basketball Association does a lot of business with American teams, including the Houston Rockets. The fallout from this has been unexpectedly huge, with many condemning the NBA for complying with the Chinese government and prioritising business interests over upholding freedom of speech. 

What is this new crisis about in Catalonia?

This isn’t a new crisis, but rather a re-firing of the ongoing independence movement, which has been agitated by court proceedings in recent weeks. Incite has covered this topic before, if you want to take a look at here and here before reading on. 

On the 14th of October, 2019, the former Deputy President of Catalonia was sentenced to 13 years in prison by the Spanish Supreme Court over his role in the 2017 independence referendum, an involvement deemed illegal by the Spanish Government. 

The situation broke out as many voices have expressed outrage at the severity of the charges, both in Spain and abroad. The official Spanish stance from the courts is that the illegal referendum held in Catalonia in 2017 was an embezzlement of public funds – hence the severe sentences handed out to Catalan officials who took part in the organisation of this referendum. 

In the UK, there was little to no official government response but the SNP and other pro-independence organisations expressed solidarity with their Catalan cousins. The Catalan independence movement has been likened to the Scottish independence movement, which is gaining momentum due to the possibility of a no-deal Brexit on the 31st of October.

It is not yet clear what the future holds for this region or the extent to which the Catalan situation will influence the Scottish independence movement. For now, protest seems to be the order of the day.

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