Both Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff have been combing the district for additional supporters since the first round.

Early-vote turnout soars in Georgia special election

Over 140,000 people have already voted in the race between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff, including 36,000 who didn’t vote in the first round.

Early voting in Georgia’s special House election closed Friday evening with over 140,000 ballots cast, with overall turnout looking likely to rise in Tuesday’s closely watched matchup between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel.

The early voters in the second round include over 36,000 people who did not participate in April, according to data from the Georgia secretary of state’s office. That includes past voters who stayed home as well as newly registered voters who added their names to the rolls in Georgia’s 6th District after the primary.

Both Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff have been combing the district for additional supporters since the first round.
Both Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff have been combing the district for additional supporters since the first round.

The total number of voters on Tuesday is expected to surpass the high turnout in the first round, when over 192,000 voters cast ballots, including about 57,000 who voted early. The final turnout on Tuesday could easily exceed the vote total in the 2014 midterm elections, when over 210,500 people voted in the district.

The high levels of voting reflect extraordinarily high local interest in the race. After a $50 million campaign (a national record for a House race), 92 percent of voters said they are watching the race “closely,” including 64 percent following it “very closely,” according to a recent Atlanta Journal Constitution poll. And 52 percent of voters said in the poll that they think the race between Handel and Ossoff is more important than past elections.

Both parties have been combing the district for additional supporters since the first round, when Ossoff got over 48 percent of the vote — 3,612 votes short of a majority that would have won the seat for the Democrat without a runoff. Handel qualified for the June 20 runoff in second place with 20 percent of the vote, though Republican candidates combined for 51 percent support in the first round.

Handel and the GOP have focused on approximately 35,000 voters who cast GOP ballots in Georgia’s 2016 presidential primary but did not vote on April 18. Democrats have fewer outstanding base votes to chase, with about 11,000 2016 presidential primary voters in the district who didn’t cast ballots in April. Ossoff’s campaign is also seeking support from thousands of newly registered voters and some independents who are not regular voters.

Steinmeier nearly boiled over when talking to reporters

‘We need RESULTS’ Germany orders Britain to get on with Brexit & stop playing ‘time game’

GERMANY today accused Britain of deliberately playing for time over the start of the Brexit negotiations in a calculated swipe at the Government’s perceived lack of readiness for the talks.

In a blunt intervention Angela Merkel’s right-hand man Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the UK side Berlin needed to see “results” from the divorce process soon and stuck the knife in over the chaos in Westminster.

His baseball bat diplomacy is yet the latest sign of growing frustration in Brussels and other European capitals at Britain’s lack of readiness for Brexit a whole year on from the result of the referendum.

EU diplomats are becoming increasingly concerned that the UK is completely unready for talks on a process it chose to start, something which only hinders the possibility of reaching a deal within the tight two-year timeframe.

Today it emerged that Britain still hasn’t even submitted its position papers to the EU, laying out exactly what it wants to achieve from the negotiations, despite the fact they are due to start in just three days’ time.

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier met Donald Tusk today
German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier met Donald Tusk today

And eurocrats are becoming more and more frustrated at what they see as delay games by the British side, which is obfuscating on major issues as it plays for more preparation time amid political anarchy in Downing Street.

Mr Steinmeier, the German federal president, came as close as any senior European figure to boiling over today as he addressed reporters following a meeting with EU Council chief Donald Tusk.

Begging the UK to finally begin serious work on “substantial negotiations” – a serious diplomatic swipe given the gravity of the Brexit talks – he hissed: “I hope that the UK is now aware that we need results, that they can’t rely on delays.”

Senior EU officials have been voicing concerns about the UK’s level of preparedness for the last few months, with the cries reaching fever pitch last week as the date for the start of the talks draws ever nearer.

Eurocrats admitted they were stunned that, with less than a week to go, Britain had still not formally appointed a negotiator meaning that Michel Barnier had no direct counterpart with whom to haggle.

They had even been speculating that the prime minister herself might look to take control of the talks, something officials said would be “weird” and would have gone down badly with Brussels which wants a dedicated person on the job.

A joint statement released by the EU Commission and the Department for Exiting the European Union (DexEU) yesterday confirming the June 19 start date suggests that the Brexit secretary David Davis will now fill that role.

But much uncertainty still remains, and meetings between Mr Barnier’s team and the UK’s two most senior representatives in Brussels, Sir Tim Barrow and Olly Robbins, leaving many EU officials saying there were more questions than answers to be solved.

With eurocrats uncertain what to expect following Mrs May’s shock election defeat they have prepared their team for anything, including any sudden U-turn on Britain’s Brexit position to include single market access.

Jo Cox will be honoured by thousands of people

‘We can’t be beaten’ Jo Cox inspires Great Get Together across UK for anniversary of death

THE sister of Jo Cox has said she wanted to be among “the people who loved Jo and who Jo loved” as the murdered MP’s family marks the anniversary of her death.

Kim Leadbeater said “every day is difficult” as Mrs Cox’s widower, Brendan, said her murder “took the heart” out of the family but insisted they have not been broken by the tragedy.

Miss Leadbeater told BBC Breakfast: “I think the thing, as a family, is every day is difficult.

“So it’s not as if today is actually very different for us in lots of ways. But I think what I chose to do is to come into the community and be around the people who loved Jo and who Jo loved and in the place that we were born and brought up.

“I think, for me, this is my way of coping with it and, hopefully, letting them know that, as a family, we won’t be beaten by what’s happened.

“Also, as a community, it’s important that we don’t allow ourselves to be beaten by what’s happened.”

Mr Cox said that shock had given way to grief following the killing, but he had been comforted by the nationwide “wave of compassion and kindness”.

As thousands of people prepare to take part in events honouring his late wife, he said bringing communities together was “more important now than ever”.

“When Jo was killed a year ago, it took the heart out of our family,” he said.

“The first emotion was shock, both numbing and shattering. That in time gave way to a grief that remains very fresh, very raw and continues to hit us in vicious waves when we least expect it. But our family has not been broken.”

Mother-of-two Mrs Cox was shot and stabbed on June 16 last year as she arrived for a constituency surgery in Birstall, West Yorkshire. She had been elected as Labour MP for the Batley and Spen constituency just 13 months earlier.

Right-wing loner Thomas Mair was given a whole life term after being convicted of her murder at the Old Bailey in November.

Mr Cox said his wife’s killing “aimed to divide communities but has instead brought them together”.

He added: “Her killing by a far-right extremist shocked the country and unleashed a wave of compassion and kindness that has comforted us ever since and for which we are extremely grateful.

“At a time when extremists of all types are trying to divide our communities, there is a huge groundswell of people who just want to focus on the things that unite us, who want to draw closer to their neighbours and communities.

“I think people are sick of the narrative of hatred and division that neither represents who they are nor our great country.”

Mr Cox said he was “awed by the scale of the reaction” to The Great Together, with more than 110,000 events honouring his late wife expected to be held from today to Sunday.

He added: “We hope these events give us all a moment – as Jo talked about in her maiden speech – to focus on the things we have in common.

“I also hope they are fun, full of energy and laughter. That’s what Jo would have wanted.”

 

Keir Starmer has written to Brexit Secretary David Davis

‘It’s NOT viable’ Keir Starmer says UK set for BAD Brexit deal with David Davis stance

The Labour politician responsible for the party’s Brexit policy has written to Theresa May’s government urging it to drop its “belligerent and reckless” approach to leaving the European Union (EU).

In a letter to Brexit Secretary David Davis, Sir Keir Starmer urged him to “reset” the country’s exit strategy, adding the Prime Minister’s “inflexible” stance “makes a good deal for Britain less likely, not more likely”.

The Shadow Brexit Secretary’s comments come just a week after Theresa May lost her majority in the snap election she had called in the hopes of strengthening her hand in Brexit talks.

Formal Brexit talks are expected to start in Brussels on Monday, almost exactly a year after the UK voted to leave the bloc.

The news will come as a welcome relief to the British Government, after a dismal election for Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May threatened to delay proceedings.

In his letter, Sir Keir calls on Mr Davis to address four key concerns, one of which is a more constructive and responsible tone in the negotiations.

He also urges ministers to ensure that jobs and the economy features high on the priority list.

Sir Keir added that now is the time for the government to drop its mantra of “no deal is better than a bad deal”, warning: “No deal has never been a viable option. To threaten to jump off a cliff rather than to be pushed is not a viable negotiating strategy.”

Sir Keir Starmer has urged the government to “reset” the country’s exit strategy
Sir Keir Starmer has urged the government to “reset” the country’s exit strategy

He also said that the loss of Mrs May’s overall majority in the June 8 General Election meant that Parliament could no longer be “marginalised” in the Brexit process.

He added that “appropriate steps” must now be taken to ensure that a Labour administration is able to take over negotiations at any stage should Mrs May’s Government fall.

The comments come a week after Theresa May lost her majority in the Commons
The comments come a week after Theresa May lost her majority in the Commons

With Labour seeking regular meetings with the most senior civil servant at the Department for Exiting the EU, Sir Keir said: “It is clear that the Government can no longer seek to silence opposition or sideline Parliament.

“There must be a new spirit of openness and transparency, in which challenge and scrutiny are welcomed.”

Labour must now tread a delicate path through Brexit negotiations.

On one hand, the party will be keen to exploit the government’s current weak position in Parliament, but will be mindful of how it goes about this so voters don’t accuse Labour of trying to sabotage the process.

The party’s own position on the technicalities of Brexit has been the subject of confusion in recent days after several senior figures made seemingly contradictory statements.

Both the party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell have gone on record saying Britain remaining in the single market is out of the questions.

However, in stark contract, Sir Keir and Barry Gardiner – the Labour party’s trade secretary – said this week that remaining in the EU single market could be feasible — subject to certain reforms.

Leo Varadkar and Theresa May will meet on Monday

Irish PM to meet Theresa May to talk post-Brexit borders and DUP deal

IRELAND’s new prime minister will meet Theresa May on Monday to discuss Brexit and insist the Conservative Party’s alliance with the DUP does not affect the border with Northern Ireland.

The pair are due to discuss Brexit and the political deadlock in the Northern Irish regional assembly, after a breakdown in a power sharing deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Brexit will be high on the agenda amid concerns of a return to a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland once Britain leaves the EU.

Mrs May’s plans to agree an informal ‘confidence and supply’ deal with Arlene Foster on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic will also come under scrutiny.

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “I will be speaking to her about a renewed commitment by the two governments to work together to ensure that the Northern Ireland executive is established before June 29.

“Obviously also we are going to have a discussion around Brexit.

Theresa May is trying to agree a deal with the DUP
Theresa May is trying to agree a deal with the DUP

“I’ll be interested to learn from her to what extent, if at all, British policy has changed and to relay to her once again the particular concerns that we have in Ireland about the impact on the border, trade and freedom of citizens to move freely between our two islands as we have done for centuries.”

The Irish prime minister – known as the Taoiseach in the republic – also said today that the DUP deal must not interfere with devolution in Northern Ireland.

His office said in a statement :”The Taoiseach raised the ongoing discussions on formation of a new government in London with the DUP, which is a matter for the parties represented at Westminster, but noted the need to avoid any outcome which could interfere with devolution and the prospects of re-establishing the Executive.”

His comments come after a week of negotiations between DUP leader Arlene Foster and Mrs May over the confidence agreement,

Speaking after returning home to Belfast, Ms Foster said she wanted to see an arrangement that worked for everybody after the UK left the EU.

Arlene Foster urged for a "sensible" Brexit
Arlene Foster urged for a “sensible” Brexit

Ms Foster said: “Not just in Northern Ireland from my perspective but of course in the Republic of Ireland as well. So it is about a sensible Brexit.

“I know people want to talk about soft Brexit, hard Brexit, all of these sorts of things, but what we want to see is a sensible Brexit and one that works for everybody.”

The PM yesterday urged Northern Ireland’s political parties to reach an agreement to restore government by June 29, or London would need to consider alternative steps.

Theresa May said: “Speaking with the parties today, it was clear that real progress was made in the last round of discussions and agreement can be reached if there is good will on all sides.

“But time is running short and the parties must come together by the 29 June for the return of a strong voice at Stormont.”

Brexit negotiations are set to start on Monday.

The DUP is planning to scrap the TV licence

‘It’s a REGRESSIVE TAX!’ DUP’s pledge to scrap BBC TV licence fee may happen in Tory deal

TV licences could be abolished if the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) get their way in a parliamentary deal with the Tory party.

DUP officials have long pledged for the removal of the BBC imposed charge which the party calls a “regressive tax”.

However, the move, which would save families almost £150 a year, has been criticised by Labour

Jeremy Corbyn’s team have vowed to vote down any major overhaul of the publicly-funded BBC.

Deputy leader Tom Watson wrote to Tory counterpart Karen Bradley calling for her to “fight hard” to make sure DUP plans are not on the table as part of Theresa May’s desperate bid to hold on to power.

As part of the DUP’s six election pledges, they plan to scrap the £3.7billion a year licence fee.

The Northern Ireland party said: “The TV licence fee is a highly regressive tax which was designed for a different era and a world of communications that no longer exists.

“The success of Netflix and Amazon streaming services shows that subscription-based media can and does work.

Arlene Foster’s party said they would form an independent commission to review the BBC and “alternative funding models”, while producing a plan that will “either significantly reduce the licence fee or abolish it”.

Mr Watson, shadow culture secretary, hit back saying: “Don’t do this.

“Cutting or abolishing the TV licence would jeopardise the BBC’s future as an independent, advertiser-free national broadcaster. It would be a great mistake.

Arlene Foster's DUP party hopes to strike a deal with the Tory party
Arlene Foster’s DUP party hopes to strike a deal with the Tory party

“I look forward to receiving reassurances that there will be no concessions to the DUP on this matter.

“And I would be grateful if you would give a specific commitment to maintaining the TV licence as the BBC’s funding mechanism.

The Tories reached a deal with the BBC in 2015 that saw the corporation take on the £750million costs of providing the service free to people over the age of 75.

How Brexit negotiations will be held on Monday – including a VERY long lunch

ON MONDAY the day the entire country has been waiting a year for will finally arrive and negotiations on Britain’s exit from the European Union will begin in earnest.

And in oh so typical Brussels style it won’t be the bang of a starting gun but rather the pop of a wine cork that denotes the start of Brexit as David Davis and Michel Barnier get down to work over the one thing this global capital of bureaucracy does best – lunch.

An itinerary released by the EU Commission this afternoon shows that officials from the British and EU sides will spend just six to seven hours negotiating on the first day of the talks.

Michel Barnier is the EU's chief negotiator
Michel Barnier is the EU’s chief negotiator

The day will begin with an opening salvo of talks between the two camps for 90 minutes, which are likely to be ceremonial in nature as both sides mark the start of history.

An hour and a half is then dedicated to a “working lunch” between Mr Davis, the Brexit secretary, and his French counterpart Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.

Over fine food the pair, who already know each other well over long lives in European politics, will lay the foundations for a close working relationship which will ultimately determine the success or failure of the talks.

After lunch officials from both Brussels and London will come together for working groups, during which they will discuss what eurocrats have amusingly dubbed “talks about talks”.

Confusingly, the opening salvos of the Brexit process will all focus on the technical framework within which the actual negotiations themselves will be carried out.

Brussels has insisted on an overall phased approach to the divorce, meaning that aspects including citizens’ rights, a financial settlement and Northern Ireland must be resolved before trade talks can begin.

Britain initially rejected this idea, saying it wanted to conduct trade and technical talks at the same time, but now appears to have admitted defeat and agreed to it in principle.

The EU also wants to hold the negotiations themselves in four week rotating blocs, all taking place in Brussels, during which individual issues will be compartmentalised and discussed.

Under their plan Mr Davis would spend one week of every month in Brussels holding face-to-face meetings with Mr Barnier, whilst the other three weeks would be characterised by constant contact between their officials.

EU sources say Britain is yet to formally agree to any of Brussels’ proposals on the structure of the talks, but that eurocrats expect the UK side will do so in the end.

In the afternoon intense talks to this effect will be held between Mr Barnier’s fearsome second-in-command Sabine Weyand, who is one of the EU’s most highly regarded officials, and Mr Davis’ deputy Olly Robbins.

The day will end with a closing session between the two chief negotiators and a press conference, at which journalists and the public will be updated of progress made on the first day.

The plans were published hours after Germany’s president, Walter-Frank Steinmeier, warned Britain to stop playing “time games” with the bloc and get on with the process of delivering Brexit.