LONDON — Hedwig Hegtermans has lived in Britain for two decades, but she didn’t have a vote when the country decided in 2016 to leave the European Union. She’s determined to have her say on Brexit now.
An election for the European Parliament being held this month in all 28 EU member states — including the not-yet-departed U.K. — is giving Hegtermans and other Europeans in Britain the chance to pass judgment on the Brexit decision that left their lives in limbo.
“It is a way for people to voice their frustration,” said Hegtermans, a Dutch citizen and member of The 3 Million, a lobby group for EU citizens in Britain.
Like other non-U.K. EU nationals, she was not eligible to vote in Britain’s EU membership referendum three years ago — and like them she saw her automatic right to live and work in Britain whipped away by the Brexit decision. (The British government says all 3 million EU citizens in Britain can stay, but they have to apply for “settled status” through a somewhat glitch-prone new registration process).
“We did not have a vote in the referendum, we could not voice anything while we were the people who will be affected the most,” Hegtermans said.
She said the May 23 election to fill the U.K.’s 73 seats in the 751-seat EU legislature “is one way for us to let our voices (be) heard.”
The result of next week’s election won’t directly affect Brexit. But it will be interpreted as a test of public sentiment — almost a mini-referendum — and could sway politicians to take a harder or softer course as Britain heads for the exit door.
That makes this the most high-profile European election in Britain in years — but it shouldn’t be happening. The U.K. was due to have left the EU by now.
Instead, British politicians are deadlocked over departure terms and Brexit has been postponed from March 29 until Oct. 31 while they try to sort out the mess. So Britain is taking part, and the contest here is dominated by candidates promising either to speed up Brexit or throw it into reverse gear.
Pro-European parties are eager to attract votes from EU citizens, who can vote in European polls though not in U.K. national elections.
That’s why a former finance minister of Poland could be found recently standing outside a suburban London subway station, thrusting anti-Brexit leaflets at tired commuters. Jan Vincent-Rostowski, a London-born economist who served in a centre-right Polish government between 2007 and 2013, is a candidate for the newly former pro-EU party Change UK.
“I thought that was something I could bring to the campaign, being both a British citizen — a Londoner born and bred — but also a Polish citizen who has done his bit in politics elsewhere,” Vincent-Rostowski said.
“Brexit is collapsing under the weight of its own internal contradictions. And if something bad is collapsing I think it’s a good idea to give it a push. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Chipper and polite — “Can I give you a leaflet madam?” — he got a reasonably warm reception in suburban Ealing, a diverse London district that voted 60% for remaining in the European Union. Several Poles recognized him, stopping to chat or film him on their phones.
But this is a heated and bad-tempered election. Both of Britain’s main parties — the governing Conservative and opposition Labour — are bracing for a hammering as voters frustrated by the Brexit impasse turn to parties promising either a definitive break with the EU or a chance to remain in the bloc.
Thousands of Brexiteers across the country are flocking to rallies for the new Brexit Party led by former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, who accuses the government of betraying Brexit and wants Britain to walk away from the bloc even if there is no divorce deal to smooth the way.
Among pro-Europeans, Change UK is competing for votes with the centrist Liberal Democrats and environmentalist Greens. All support holding a new referendum that would include the option of remaining in the EU.
Politics professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London said EU citizens’ votes could deliver a boost to pro-EU parties, if “they can be bothered to come out and vote in what is such a depressing time for them. “
EU elections in Britain generally have a low turnout. At the last EU election in 2014, it was 35%, and Bale said a turnout of 40% this time would be “stunning.”
EU citizens also must navigate a U.K. voter-registration process that requires them to fill out a form declaring that they do not plan to also vote in their home country.
Hegtermans said there has been “quite a bit of confusion” about the forms, and the deadline for registration passed on May 7. It’s likely some Europeans will show up at polling stations only to be turned away.
Others may stay away out of a common U.K. malaise: Brexhaustion.
Europeans in London expressed a mix of enthusiasm and resignation at the prospect of an election that — three years after the vote to leave the EU — is dominated by Brexit.
“As a Polish citizen, I would love Britain to stay in the European Union,” said 32-year-old Kate Staron. “So definitely I will vote and try to make some difference. .. I encourage everyone else to go and vote as every vote is important.”
Marcel Wojtyniak, a 25-year-old data analyst also from Poland, wasn’t so sure.
“I think there’s a lot of exhaustion on the subject,” he said.
“I suppose I just moved on. I accepted the fact. I don’t really think the European elections are going to make that much difference.”
Follow Jill Lawless at http://bit.ly/N5cuAt
For more news from The Associated Press on the European Parliament elections go to http://bit.ly/2PWiTn8
Jill Lawless, The Associated Press
@repost Types of Custody
HOUSTON — The Latest on the investigation of a police shooting of a Houston-area woman (all times local):
A woman says a police officer harassed her cousin more than 10 times at their Houston-area apartment complex before he finally shot and killed her.
Antoinette Dorsey-James, a first cousin of Pamela Turner, told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday that Turner told relatives that every time she had an encounter with the manager of the complex, the officer would show up at her apartment and bother her.
Turner’s family says Turner and the officer lived at the same complex and that Turner knew him by name.
Harris County court records show Turner was accused of criminal mischief and assault on April 24 after a physical confrontation with the apartment complex manager over an eviction notice.
The complex’s management hasn’t returned a call seeking comment Thursday.
Baytown police have said an officer shot Turner Monday during an attempted arrest.
A lawyer for the family of a woman who was fatally shot by a Houston-area police officer says the officer lived in the same apartment complex as her and knew she suffered from mental illness.
Attorney Ben Crump says Pamela Turner had struggled with paranoid schizophrenia since her diagnosis in 2005, and may have been in crisis the night she was killed.
Baytown police have said an officer shot the 44-year-old African American woman Monday during an attempted arrest, and that she shocked him with his Taser during a struggle.
At a Thursday press conference, Crump and Turner’s family portrayed the officer as the aggressor.
Turner’s daughter, Chelsie Rubin, said she asked a Baytown police officer if the department was aware of her mother’s illness and he confirmed they were.
The Associated Press
@repost Prenup Lawyer
Remember this important fact: none of us knows whether Vice-Admiral Mark Norman is guilty of the crime with which he was charged.
Well, Vice-Admiral Norman knows, presumably, and his legal team would have a pretty good idea, as would a few Crown prosecutors and members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
As for the rest of us Canadians, though — including the members of Parliament who made this murky saga even weirder by voting unanimously on Tuesday to apologize to the vice-admiral and his family “for what they endured over the course of his breach of trust case, which collapsed last week,” as The Globe and Mail put it — all we have are opinions, most of them uninformed.
On the part of the Liberal government’s Opposition in Parliament, all of the mainstream media, and the usual suspects on the Trudeau-hating right, these opinions are strongly held — so just stating the obvious truth is likely to spark outrage.
Nevertheless, it is unavoidable. The breach of trust charge against Vice-Admiral Norman was stayed last week. And, according to LawFacts.ca, a legal resource website published by Legal Aid Ontario, luckily not an institution of which the vice-admiral needed to avail himself, “the decision by the Crown to stay or withdraw charges means they discontinue the prosecution.”
“However, there is one important difference,” LawFacts.ca explained. “Stayed charges can be ‘brought back to life’ within one year of the day they are stayed. While this tends to be rare, you should know that if you’re charged with new offences during the one-year period after you’ve had charges stayed, the stayed charges could be brought back and the Crown could prosecute you on those same charges again.”
Even when charges are withdrawn, meaning they cannot be brought back again, this simply means that prosecutors have reached the conclusion they cannot get a conviction from a court in a legal system that operates from a presumption of innocence requiring the state to prove all charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a confusing situation like this, when much of the essential information is either a military or cabinet secret, this imperfect result is more akin to the famous Scotch verdict, discussed in this space before: Not proven.
This is not to say Vice-Admiral Norman is not the victim of an injustice. He may well be. Only that we don’t really know, and will likely never be allowed to know.
It must be noted that, had the accused had been a poor person, a person of colour, or a member of a minority religion, many of the same people who donated to Vice-Admiral Norman’s GoFundMe account with the encouragement of Conrad Black, would now be screeching that he “got off on a technicality.”
And if he were an accused terrorist railroaded by a foreign country’s drumhead kangaroo court with the active assistance of Canadian officials who ignored the accused’s constitutional rights, the din would be almost unbearable, I imagine.
In this regard, the whole affair reminds me of the scene from the movie Being There, in which Louise, Chance the gardener’s former housekeeper, observes, “It’s for sure a white man’s world in America. … Yes, sir, all you’ve gotta be is white in America, to get whatever you want.”
In fairness, Louise also observed in this scene that “I raised that boy since he was the size of a piss-ant. And I’ll say right now, he never learned to read and write. No, sir. Had no brains at all. Was stuffed with rice pudding between the ears. Shortchanged by the Lord, and dumb as a jackass. Look at him now!” This is a description that may be more fittingly applied to Justin Trudeau or Andrew Scheer than Vice-Admiral Norman.
It must also be noted that, had this been a normal case involving a normal citizen instead of a senior naval officer comfortable in elite society, the MLAs who ran screaming to the press during the trial would have mumbled that they couldn’t comment about a matter that was before the courts. However, when powerful men are involved, apparently the normal law of political gravity is repealed.
Which brings us to the topic of Jason Kenney, the former federal minister of defence now premier of Alberta, who we are told took supposedly exculpatory evidence to Vice-Admiral Norman’s lawyers at the very last moment, thereby allowing him to take credit for the circumstances under which the vice-admiral was able to skate.
Wouldn’t it have been less expensive for taxpayers and much easier on Vice-Admiral Norman and his family, who had to endure so much, if Kenney had gone to the RCMP or the prosecutors immediately with his exculpatory memories? It’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t have returned a call from a former minister of defence on such a topic.
Failing that, Kenney certainly could have just phoned one of his friends at Postmedia and dominated the front pages of their newspapers for a few days.
I wonder why he didn’t? Surely, it couldn’t have been because by withholding the information until the last minute he was able to cause maximum damage to the government of the prime minister whose job he covets.
So I wonder, now that we’re in an apologetic frame of mind, if Kenney could also be persuaded to apologize to Vice-Admiral Norman for causing him unnecessary pain by delaying?
And I wonder if Parliament will be passing any more unanimous votes of apology in the event charges are dropped against other Canadians, let alone if cases come to light in which less-well-connected citizens appear to have been railroaded by police and the courts into undeserved prison sentences.
How likely do you think that is?
Pardoned by the president, Lord Black may now exit the Dominion at last
Speaking of Lord Black of Crosshabour, known lately for rambling hagiographies polishing the tarnished reputation of the current U.S. president in both a turgid doorstopper and his apparently unedited column in the National Post, I see U.S. President Donald Trump has at last returned the favour and expunged the former newspaper magnate’s 2007 criminal convictions south of the Medicine Line.
In a letter yesterday from the White House, a symbolically appropriate venue under the circumstances, Trump heaped encomia on the former Canadian citizen still resident in this country and pardoned His Lordship for the three counts of fraud and one of obstruction of justice for which he served three and a half years in a federal prison in Florida.
It seems churlish to suggest this is another example of the phenomenon described by Louise the housekeeper in the passage above, yet the conclusion is inescapable.
Well, it may turn out to be an event unique in recorded history: the first time a convicted felon has been granted a full pardon by a future convicted felon.
At any rate, Lord Black is now free to travel to the great republic to the south and, as another famous American president might have put it, fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray that he will do so soon.
Here’s your hat, m’Lord, don’t let the door hit you on the way out!
David Climenhaga, author of the Alberta Diary blog, is a journalist, author, journalism teacher, poet and trade union communicator who has worked in senior writing and editing positions with The Globe and Mail and the Calgary Herald. This post also appears on David Climenhaga’s blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.
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@repost Custody Papers