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Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan

The Thaiger

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Johnson tells MPs that there is ‘no better outcome’ than his Brexit plan | The Thaiger

British PM Boris Johnson is warning British MPs there was “no better outcome” to the tortuous Brexit process than his divorce deal, as he scrambles to get MPs behind the agreement ahead of today’s knife-edge vote in parliament (Saturday UK time).

Johnson is urging lawmakers to back the “fantastic” terms he struck with EU leaders and let Britain leave the bloc on October 31.

“There’s no better outcome than the one I’m advocating tomorrow.”

“I want colleagues on all sides of the House to think about a world tomorrow night in which we’ve got this thing done,” he added in a separate interview with ITV.

“I think the nation will heave a great sigh of relief.”

Johnson pulled off a major coup in agreeing a new divorce deal at a Brussels summit on Thursday, only a fortnight before Britain is scheduled to leave the EU. But the deal’s fortunes, and Britain’s immediate fate, rest in the hands of a few undecided MPs, who will vote in the first Saturday session of the Commons since the 1982 Falklands War.

Political pundits suggest the vote could be exceptionally tight. Johnson has no majority among MPs, every opposition party has come out against the deal and even his parliamentary ally, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), says it cannot support the terms.

Johnson requires the support of 319 other MPs to guarantee victory – and claims he is confident of getting the numbers, as he spent the day meeting and calling MPs.

He must convince diehard eurosceptics in his own Conservative ranks, former colleagues he expelled from the party for seeking to block a “no deal” departure, and main opposition Labour MPs from Brexit-backing constituencies to have any chance.

Labour is ordering its MPs to vote against the deal but threatening no punishment if they vote in favour. Several MPs spent yesterday wrestling with their consciences as the more than three years of turmoil since the June 2016 EU membership referendum came to a head.

Johnson is expected to deliver a speech to parliament from 0830 GMT on Saturday, kicking off a day of debate that could last well into the evening.

The turning of the screws

If the Commons rejects the deal, Johnson will be forced by law to ask the EU to delay Brexit, for what would be the third time. He has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch”.

French President Emmanuel Macron piled the pressure on MPs, saying he did not want a new delay now a deal was struck.

“The October 31 date should be respected. I don’t think that new deadlines should be given,” he said at the EU summit in Brussels.

“We need to end these negotiations and get on negotiating the future relationship.”

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister Xavier Bettel added: “There is no choice between Brexit or no Brexit: it’s a choice between deal or no deal.”

Johnson took office in July vowing to keep to the October 31 Brexit deadline, deal or no deal.

He pledged to renegotiate the most contentious elements of a divorce text agreed by his predecessor Theresa May with Brussels last year, which MPs rejected three times.

The compromise deal that was finally struck on Thursday has a new arrangement for keeping open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

The DUP has said it cannot support the plans, as efforts to avoid checks on the Irish land border would lead to new trade barriers between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

Meanwhile…

Former Conservative prime minister John Major (1990-1997) and his Labour successor Tony Blair (1997-2007) pleaded with MPs to back a second referendum, ahead of a major rally by the “People’s Vote” campaign outside parliament on Saturday (UK time).

“Whatever is the outcome, no deal or bad deal, it should not pass without the final say resting with the people,” said Blair.

Major said Brexit was a “thoroughly bad idea” that risked breaking up the UK.

The Pound steadied around $1.29 yesterday as dealers took a breather at the end of a dizzying week.

ETX Capital analyst Michael Baker said the market was “really gambling” on the vote and had “not priced in fully all scenarios – so expect big moves”.

SOURCE: Agence France-Presse | PHOTO: Associated Press

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Thailand

Thailand delays introduction of new visa requirements for Taiwanese tourists

The Thaiger

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Thailand delays introduction of new visa requirements for Taiwanese tourists | The Thaiger

…and other proposed nationalities as well.

Thailand has decided to postpone the requirement for Taiwanese travellers to present financial statements when applying online for a visa. The Taiwan News is reporting that the new requirements are being delayed until at least March, 2020.

The Thailand Trade and Economic Office in Taipei has announced that online Taiwanese applicants for travel to Thailand would need to provide three months evidence of financial statements before they could be awarded the visa. They would also have to report in person to apply for the visa.

The new visa requirement have infuriated Taiwanese officials and local travel agents, who, rightly made the point that Thai citizens don’t need a visa to visit Taiwan under the Taiwanese government’s “New Southbound Policy”.

Media reports have now said that the Thailand Trade and Economic Office was, following government pressure, going to cancel the new requirements. But a representative of the TTEO says they are merely postponing the introduction of the tighter visa rules pending a review that could take up until next March.

CNA reports that… “TTEO posted a message on its website Thursday saying the introduction of the financial statement requirement had been postponed until March 1, 2020, to give applicants sufficient time to prepare and to acquaint themselves with the new method.”

Thailand officials originally said the new regulation, relating to financial statements would eventually also apply to visitors from China, France, and the UK as well.

SOURCE: Taiwan News

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Tourism

Taiwan challenges Thai government over new visa requirements for their citizens

May Taylor

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Taiwan challenges Thai government over new visa requirements for their citizens | The Thaiger

The Taiwanese government says it’s concerned about new Thai government visa rules being imposed on its citizens travelling to Thailand.

A new application scheme launched on November 29 by the Thailand Trade and Economic Office in Taipei now requires applicants to show evidence of sufficient funds for their trip. The requirement, which asks Taiwanese nationals to submit bank statements from the previous three months, has angered some, with a member of the Kuomintang opposition party saying it’s akin to treating Taiwan as a third world country.

Taiwanese applicants are also required to apply online and then make an appointment to submit their documents in person, whereas previously they could apply in person at the TTEO without any prior online application or appointment.

Members of the opposition are calling on the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to register a formal protest with the Thai government against the new application procedure, pointing out that Thai citizens visiting Taiwan are granted visa-free entry.

The Taiwanese foreign affairs officials, for their part, say they’ve already notified the Thai government of its concerns and asked for clarification on the more stringent guidelines. They also insist that visa-free privileges granted to Thai citizens have boosted tourist numbers and business and education exchanges between both countries, but did not provide any numbers in support of the claim.

“We have asked the Thai side to clarify the new process and will continue to urge it to improve the convenience of visa applications for Taiwanese.”

Meanwhile, the Thai representative office in Taipei says the new visa application process is not restricted to Taiwanese nationals but applicable to other nationalities too, including British and French.

An official from the TTEO says that while tourists from some countries may be able to enter Thailand visa-free, they still need to follow the online process should they require a visa, whether that be for education, business or marriage.

SOURCE: The Nation

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Malaysia

Former Malaysian PM Najib presents his opening testimony

The Thaiger

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Former Malaysian PM Najib presents his opening testimony | The Thaiger

PHOTO: Voice of America

Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak was in the witness box for the first time yesterday defending himself on criminal charges linked to a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB (1 Malaysia Development Bhd).

Najib, who unexpectedly lost a general election last year to his former mentor and former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad, is now facing dozens of graft and money laundering charges over allegations that he received aboutUS $1 billion.

Najib stands accused of illegally receiving 42 million ringgit (about US$10 million) from former 1MDB business unit SRC International. A judge ruled prosecutors had successfully established a case against him over the matter and was ordered to present his defense last month.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to the charges of criminal breach of trust, money laundering and abuse of power in the SRC case.

Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who leads Najib’s defense team, maintains that his client had no reason to believe that proceeds of any illegal activity were transferred to him.

“Najib was not involved in any corrupt arrangement involving funds of SRC and did not solicit any bribes from any person.”

Najib yesterday read from his 243 page written testimony, in Malay. His testimony, prepared in a Q&A format, began with how he set up 1MDB in 2009 and how the fugitive Malaysian financier Jho Low, said to be at the centre of the scandal, came to be associated with the fund.

The former PM looked noticably aged since his times as Malaysian prime minister.

“Low portrayed himself as someone influential in the Middle East countries who I believed was able to facilitate investments and partnerships between them.”

Low has been charged in Malaysia and the US over the alleged theft from 1MDB. Low has denied any wrongdoing. His whereabouts are currently unknown.

Najib has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

SOURCE: Thai PBS World | Reuters

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