Concert protesters out of tune

Editorial | Mary Ma 15 Oct 2019

You may not be able to escape from hearing protest slogans being chanted in Hong Kong these days - not even while enjoying an evening at the concert in Hong Kong Coliseum.

Before the concert of singer Kay Tse On-kay started Saturday, some in the audience started chanting protest slogans.

An argument broke out and some people left the venue without listening to even one song.

When the concert ended, people also flashed laser pens inside the stadium.

But it was not the first time the "five demands" had been chanted during a concert. The phenomenon came to the fore during concerts by Joey Yung Cho-yee, which started on August 5.

This week may be a pivotal one for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

It starts with the queen delivering a speech based on a script prepared by him and ends with a special Saturday meeting in the House of Commons following a two-day summit with European Union leaders.

However, for Britons in general, it is just another week in the agonizing Brexit odyssey that has, since the 2016 referendum found a majority favoring an EU exit, seen the former seafaring powerhouse of a nation navigate treacherous waters.

Will this week result in something different?

The guess is that the most likely outcome will still be the EU agreeing to extend the Brexit deadline for the nth time to allow the world's oldest democracy to agree on what it actually wants from Brexit.

Hopes rose last week that a deal would be possible, after Johnson and his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar, met at a place midway between Dublin and London.

Varadkar's upbeat comments at the end of the meeting instantly animated an otherwise languishing issue.

The British pound saw a vertical takeoff. The forex market was overexcited, but it should be forgiven for the over-reaction. By the way, the pound has been weak for such a long time the impact on the cost of living is becoming evident at local levels.

The newfound optimism, now seemingly short-lived, hinged on Johnson's plan to allow Northern Ireland to comply with EU rules and standards for all goods so that it won't be necessary to create a hard border between Northern Ireland, which forms part of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, while Northern Ireland will continue to remain part of the British customs territory.

Johnson will find it difficult to get majority support for the idea in parliament - let alone the EU, which has already poured cold water on the proposal.

Having now tried to walk the walk in the painfully small Brexit shoes once worn by his predecessor, Theresa May, Johnson must by now be realizing that all that easy talking the talk on Brexit was no more than a deception.

If EU leaders agree to a deal later this week, members of parliament will return to the House of Commons on Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War in 1982 to convene a special session to vote on the deal.

In the more likely scenario that a deal is not reached, MPs are still expected to return to the Palace of Westminster to debate on alternative courses to resolve the impasse.

After Brexit is postponed, as required by a law known as the Benn Act, the special parliamentary session could also pave way for a no-confidence vote in Johnson's government.

That will either be called by the opposition or, ironically, by the prime minister himself to kick off an early general election.

Alternatively, after some parliamentary maneuvering, an early general election may be called directly after certain conditions are met.

Then, the new government will receive a new mandate to end the impasse.

In light of local election results over the past year, the Liberal Democrats - the "Remain" stalwarts - may not secure a majority but will likely win enough seats to be the kingmaker.

Will the new government just cancel Brexit altogether?

This week will seal Johnson's future - or his political fate.

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