London, United Kingdom – Members of parliament in the UK will on Friday vote on part of embattled Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the European Union.
Under terms set out by EU leaders after a summit last week, Britain would be granted an extension until May 22 if Parliament passes the withdrawal agreement – one of two separate documents that make up the prime minister’s deal – by March 29, the date the UK was originally scheduled to leave the bloc, or Brexit.
In a move that caused a stir in the House of Commons, the government announced on Thursday that MPs would be asked to only approve the 585 page-long withdrawal agreement, agreed by negotiators from the UK and the EU last year.
Along with the withdrawal agreement, which sets out the terms of departure, the Brexit deal also includes a 26 page-long political declaration, a non-legally binding text that sets out the terms of the future relationship between the EU and the UK.
MPs on Friday, however, will not be asked to vote on the political declaration.
Why have an un-meaningful vote?
According to Section 13 of the EU Withdrawal Act, the government cannot ratify any deal until Parliament has approved it. This process has become known as a “meaningful vote”, which requires the House of Commons to approve both the withdrawal agreement and the framework for the future relationship.
However, House Speaker John Bercow has ruled that asking MPs to vote twice on the same motion would breach parliamentary procedures.
May’s deal has already been twice rejected in meaningful votes.
Andrea Leadsom, leader of the House of Commons, told MPs on Thursday the government’s move to split the deal aims at meeting the EU deadline for the UK to be granted an extension until May 22, just before European Parliament elections.
Should the UK extend beyond that date, it would be required to elect representatives in the EU Parliament, something the government wants to avoid.
“What you could do is use the withdrawal agreement bill, the legislation needed to implement the deal in domestic law, to amend the withdrawal act to say that you no longer need to approve the political declaration,” Maddy Thimont Jack, a researcher at the London-based Institute for Government, said.
“But you’d need a majority in the House of Commons to do that.”
If the deal is not passed, the EU wants Britain to set out an alternative path by April 12. As no deal remains the default option under Article 50, the part of the EU treaty that allows member states to leave the bloc, the UK could still crash out on that date.
Is May going to resign?
On Wednesday, May told members of her own Conservative party that she is willing to resign if MPs back her deal, in a last-ditch bid to win the support of hardline Eurosceptic rebels, who prefer a no-deal Brexit.
“I know there is a desire for a new approach – and new leadership – in the second phase of the Brexit negotiations, and I won’t stand in the way of that,” May told her fellow party members.
The prime minister has not specified what she would do if the deal was to be defeated a third time.
Crucially, her statement does not appear to have won the support she needs for her deal either.
Is the deal likely to pass tomorrow?
It’s very unlikely.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), May’s ally in Northern Ireland, holds many of the cards in that respect.
With 10 MPs in the House of Commons, the DUP is the only Northern Irish party represented in Westminster.
The party has opposed the backstop protocol of the withdrawal agreement, an insurance mechanism that aims at keeping an open border on the island of Ireland, for fear that it will lead to a break up of the UK as Northern Ireland would be treated differently from the rest of the country.
Hardline Brexiteer MPs have rejected the withdrawal agreement, but in the wake of May’s offer to resign, some influential Brexiteers have said they will support the prime minister’s deal.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chair of the European Research Group (ERG) and Boris Johnson both said they will back the deal.
The main opposition Labour party, which has advocated for a closer future relationship with the EU than that which May has negotiated, also appears unlikely to give its support to the withdrawal agreement on Friday.
Keir Starmer, Labour MP and shadow Brexit secretary, said his party would not support “this latest desperate attempt by the prime minister”.
“To now split the withdrawal agreement and political declaration would leave us with the blindest of blindfold Brexits,” Starmer said during a speech at a British Chambers of Commerce conference on Thursday.
What happens next then?
If the withdrawal agreement does not pass on Friday, the UK will have to request a longer extension from the EU in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit on April 12, which could be granted on the condition it takes part in the upcoming European Parliament elections.
On Monday, Parliament will hold another series of so-called “indicative votes” to find out if it can produce a majority for alternative Brexit options.
The first round of votes on Wednesday ended with all eight options put to a vote being rejected. The top two were a customs union with the EU, which received 264 votes in favour and 272 against, and holding a second referendum, which lost 268 to 295.
However, the non-binding votes were never meant to be decisive, but the beginning of a process for Parliament to find a way out of the impasse.
Bitcoin falls 10% as China intensifies crypto crackdown
Bitcoin falls to a two-week low after China announced it had summoned bank chiefs to reiterate the ban on providing cryptocurrency services.By Joanna OssingerBloombergBitcoin fell to a two-week low amid an intensifying cryptocurrency crackdown in China. The largest virtual currency fell 10% to $32,350 as of 8:50 a.m. in New York. Ether declined 13% to $1,950.…
Bitcoin falls to a two-week low after China announced it had summoned bank chiefs to reiterate the ban on providing cryptocurrency services.By Joanna OssingerBloombergBitcoin fell to a two-week low amid an intensifying cryptocurrency crackdown in China.
The largest virtual currency fell 10% to $32,350 as of 8:50 a.m. in New York. Ether declined 13% to $1,950.
China announced on Monday that it summoned officials from its biggest banks to a meeting to reiterate a ban on providing cryptocurrency services. It’s the latest sign that China plan to do whatever it takes to close any loopholes left in crypto trading.
Representatives from Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd., Agricultural Bank of China Ltd. and payment service provider Alipay were reminded of rules that prohibit Chinese banks from engaging in crypto-related transactions, according to a statement from the central bank on Monday.
“The PBOC crackdown is going further than initially expected,” said Jonathan Cheesman, head of over-the-counter and institutional sales at crypto derivatives exchange FTX. “Mining was phase one and speculation is phase two.”
Separately, a Chinese city with abundant hydropower has stepped up action to rein in mining. A Ya’an government official told at least one Bitcoin miner that the city has promised to root out all Bitcoin and Ether mining operations with a year, said a person with knowledge of the situation.
In the backdrop, the appetite for risk assets has diminished after last week’s hawkish policy pivot by the Federal Reserve. Even though equity markets tipped into the green on Monday, analysts pointed to lingering jitters about frothy corners of the market.
“If, as I expect, the global buy-everything unwind continues this week, Bitcoin will feel those chill winds,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Oanda Asia Pacific Pte.
–With assistance from Li Liu.
World reacts to election of Iran’s new hardline president Raisi
Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s hardline judiciary chief, has won a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election, a vote that both propelled the supreme leader’s protege into Tehran’s highest civilian position and saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history. Raisi won 61.95 percent of the vote in Friday’s election on a voter turnout of…
Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s hardline judiciary chief, has won a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election, a vote that both propelled the supreme leader’s protege into Tehran’s highest civilian position and saw the lowest turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history.
Raisi won 61.95 percent of the vote in Friday’s election on a voter turnout of 48.8 percent.
Raisi, 60, will take office in August, replacing moderate President Hassan Rouhani who was not allowed by the constitution to run for a third consecutive term.
He will take power at a critical time, as Iran seeks to salvage its tattered nuclear deal with major powers and free itself from punishing US sanctions that have driven a sharp economic downturn.
The election of Raisi, himself sanctioned by the United States over human rights abuses, became more of a coronation after his strongest competition found themselves disqualified from running.
Outgoing President Rouhani visited Raisi at his office to congratulate him.
“We will stand by and cooperate fully with the president-elect for the next 45 days, when the new government takes charge (in early August),” state media quoted Rouhani as saying.
Rouhani, left, meets with Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran [Official Presidential website/Handout/Reuters]Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Raisi and expressed hopes for “further development of a constructive bilateral cooperation”, according to RIA news agency citing a press officer at the Russian embassy in Tehran.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said he looked forward to working with Raisi towards “further strengthening” of fraternal ties between Pakistan and Iran for “regional peace, progress and prosperity”.
Congratulations to Excellency brother Ibrahim Raisi @raisi_com on his landmark victory in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s 13th Presidential elections. Look forward to working with him for further strengthening of our fraternal ties and for regional peace, progress and prosperity.
— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) June 19, 2021
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulated Raisi on his victory, saying he believed cooperation between the two neighbours would become stronger during Raisi’s term.
“Stating my belief that cooperation between our two countries will strengthen during your presidency, I am ready to work together with you,” Erdogan said in a letter sent to Raisi.
Assad congratulated Raisi on his victory and said he was keen to work with the new president to strengthen ties between the two countries, a statement from the Syrian presidency said.
“I extend my sincere congratulations and blessings on the occasion of your [Raisi’s] election as President of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Iraq’s President Barham Salih said.
“We in Iraq look forward to strengthening our solid relations with our neighbour Iran and its people.”
Head of human rights group Agnes Callamard said Raisi’s election win called for Raisi to be investigated for “crimes against humanity”.
“That Ebrahim Raisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran,” she posted on Twitter.
“We continue to call for Ebrahim Raisi to be investigated for his involvement in past and ongoing crimes under international law, including by states that exercise universal jurisdiction.”
The outcome of #Iran “election” was predictable. But nevertheless, that #EbrahimRaisi has risen to the presidency instead of being investigated for the crimes against humanity of murder, enforced disappearance and torture, is a grim reminder that impunity reigns supreme in Iran
— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) June 19, 2021
“We congratulate the Islamic Republic of Iran for the success of the democratic process, the holding of the presidential election and the victory of Ebrahim Raisi as Iran’s president,” Hazem Qassem, Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said in a statement.
“We wish the Islamic Republic of Iran progress and prosperity. Iran has always been a fundamental and a real supporter of the Palestinian cause and the Palestinian resistance.”
United Arab Emirates
“We wish for the Islamic Republic, and for our bilateral relations, stability, continuity and prosperity,” Vice-President and de facto Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid said in a statement tweeted by Dubai’s media office.
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed also sent a message of congratulations to Raisi, state news agency WAM reported.
UAE leaders congratulate Ebrahim Raisi on winning Iran’s presidential election#WamNewshttps://t.co/d44qtkRkJQ
— WAM English (@WAMNEWS_ENG) June 19, 2021
Human Rights Watch
Raisi’s path to presidency was through “repression and an unfair election”, Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said in a statement.
“As head of Iran’s repressive judiciary, Raisi oversaw some of the most heinous crimes in Iran’s recent history, which deserve investigation and accountability rather than election to high office.”
. @hrw’s @MichaelARPage: “Iranian authorities paved the way for Ebrahim Raeesi to become president through repression and an unfair election” https://t.co/MNy4NPARYw pic.twitter.com/F5XrEoEBNI
— Tara Sepehri Far (تارا سپهریفر) 😷 (@sepehrifar) June 19, 2021
Who is Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s next president?
Tehran, Iran – Judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi has been elected as the next president of Iran at a critical juncture for the country. Who is the conservative leader and what are his positions? The 60-year-old Raisi, who enjoys wide backing from the conservative and hardline revolutionary camp and its base, will remain chief justice until…
Tehran, Iran – Judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi has been elected as the next president of Iran at a critical juncture for the country. Who is the conservative leader and what are his positions?
The 60-year-old Raisi, who enjoys wide backing from the conservative and hardline revolutionary camp and its base, will remain chief justice until he takes over from moderate outgoing President Hassan Rouhani in early August as he did not resign from his post to run for president.
Like Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the leader wears a black turban, which signifies that he is a sayyid – a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad.
Raisi is referred to as a likely successor to the 82-year-old Khamenei when he passes away.
Before the 1979 revolution
Raisi was born in Mashhad in northeastern Iran, a major city and a religious centre for Shia Muslims as it houses the shrine of Imam Reza, the eighth imam.
Growing up in a clerical family, Raisi received a religious education and began attending the seminary in Qom when he was 15. There, he studied under several prominent scholars, including Khamenei.
When his education came up during the presidential debates, he denied that he has only six grades of classical education, saying he holds a PhD in law in addition to his seminary education.
When he entered the influential seminary in Qom just years before the 1979 revolution that brought about the Islamic Republic, many Iranians were dissatisfied with the governance of Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was ultimately deposed.
Raisi was purportedly a participant in some of the events that forced the shah into exile and set up the new clerical establishment under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
After the revolution
Following the revolution, Raisi joined the prosecutor’s office in Masjed Soleyman in southwestern Iran. Over the next six years, he added to his experience as a prosecutor in several other jurisdictions.
A crucial development came when he moved to Iran’s capital, Tehran, in 1985 after being appointed deputy prosecutor.
Human rights organisations say three years later, just months after the gruelling eight-year Iran-Iraq War ended, he was part of a so-called “death commission” that oversaw the disappearing and secret executions of thousands of political prisoners.
Raisi will become the first Iranian president to have been targeted by United States sanctions, imposed in 2019, over his alleged role in the mass executions and for cracking down on public protests.
Amnesty International has called for the leader to face charges of crimes against humanity.
The leader continued to rise within Iran’s judicial system following Khamenei’s accession to the supreme leadership in 1989. He later held roles as prosecutor of Tehran, then headed the General Inspection Organization, and then served as deputy chief justice for a decade until 2014, during which time the pro-democracy Green Movement protests of 2009 took place.
In 2006, while serving as deputy chief justice, he was for the first time elected from South Khorasan to the Assembly of Experts, a body that is tasked with choosing a replacement for the supreme leader in the event of his death. He still holds that role.
Raisi was promoted to attorney general of Iran in 2014 and remained in that position until 2016, when he climbed the ladder yet again – albeit outside the judicial system this time – and was appointed by the supreme leader as the custodian of the Astan-e Quds Razavi, a huge bonyad, or charitable trust, that manages the shrine of Imam Reza and all affiliated organisations.
In that position, Raisi commanded billions of dollars’ worth of assets and made ties with the religious and business elite of Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city.
Raisi, who has two daughters, is also the son-in-law of Ahmad Alamolhoda, the hardline longtime Friday prayer leader of Mashhad, who has become known for his fiery ultraconservative speeches and highly controversial remarks and ideas.
Raisi received a religious education and began attending the seminary in Qom when he was 15 [File: Meghdad Madadi/Getty Images]Presidential ambitions
In 2017, Raisi ran for president for the first time and became the main candidate against Rouhani, a moderate who championed engagement with the West and Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers that lifted multilateral sanctions in exchange for curbs on the country’s nuclear programme.
Raisi and his ally Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, who in 2020 became the speaker of a new hardline parliament amid low turnout and wide disqualification of reformist candidates, lost the election to Rouhani. Raisi did, however, garner just less than 16 million votes or 38 percent in an election with a 73 percent turnout.
After a short retreat, the supreme leader in 2019 appointed him as the chief justice.
In that position, the leader tried to cement his image as a staunch opponent of corruption. He held public trials and prosecuted figures close to the government and the judiciary.
He also effectively kickstarted his presidential campaign and travelled to almost all of Iran’s 32 provinces. In those visits, he would often announce he had brought a big factory back from the brink of bankruptcy, portraying himself as a champion of hard-working Iranians and boosting local businesses under US sanctions.
Raisi carried that theme into his 2021 campaign, in which he made limited promises as it was evident none of the other candidates could mount a serious challenge to his presidency amid a bad economic situation, low turnout and wide disqualification of reformist and moderate candidates.
During his time at the judiciary, messaging app Signal was banned earlier this year after a surge in popularity, as was the voice chat app Clubhouse when it became massively popular in the run-up to the elections.
All major social media and messaging apps are blocked in Iran, with the exception of Instagram and WhatsApp.
Economy and nuclear deal
When pressed by another candidate, Raisi briefly discussed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal that former US President Donald Trump unilaterally abandoned in 2018 is formally known.
While he had previously opposed the deal, this time he said he would support it as any other state commitment, but will form a “strong” government that will be able to steer it in the right direction.
A sixth round of talks between Iran and world powers is ongoing in Vienna to restore the accord, that, if successful, will lead to lifting US sanctions and scaling down Iran’s nuclear programme as the country is now enriching uranium up to 63 percent, its highest ever rate.
Even as the June 24 deadline of a temporary agreement with the International Atomic Energy Organization to keep monitoring activities in Iran in place approaches, negotiators have said the sixth round will not be the final round. But there are hopes the agreement could be revived before Raisi assumes office.
Meanwhile, the 83-million-strong population of Iran is suffering from rampant inflation and high unemployment while the government is running a considerable budget deficit and faces difficulties in handling what has become the deadliest COVID-19 pandemic of the Middle East.
Raisi has promised to tackle inflation, create at least one million jobs per year, build new housing and dedicate special loans to first-time homebuyers who get married, in addition to ushering in a new era of financial transparency and fighting corruption.
Hamed Mousavi, a political science professor at Tehran University, said the narrative among conservatives has been that mismanagement by the Rouhani government led to the current situation.
“So according to this narrative, if this mismanagement is fixed then the economy will be fixed but I do think that many conservatives at least internally understand how important the sanctions are,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I think this will go back to how much Raisi will show flexibility in the negotiations. One important point is who will he appoint for the nuclear negations.”
One choice is hardliner Saeed Jalili, a former nuclear negotiator under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who was one of seven approved candidates in the 2021 race and withdrew in favour of Raisi.
According to Natasha Lindstaedt, a researcher at the University of Essex, the likely effects of Raisi’s election on ties with the US are uncertain.
“But the type of rhetoric that the Iranian president can issue sometimes affects the way the US responds,” she told Al Jazeera.
“I see Raisi in some way as the return to Ahmadinejad, a more populist, authoritarian president and that was a period when the relationships with the US and Iran was really tense,” she said.