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Singapore GE2020: PAP, PSP West Coast teams exchange fire over manifesto, handling of Covid-19

What was expected to be a clash of personalities in West Coast GRC turned into a battle of policies yesterday – with the People’s Action Party (PAP) criticising its opponent’s manifesto for lacking detail and the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) accusing the ruling party of taking its eye off the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was the first major exchange between the two teams led by politicians with decades of ties to the constituency: on the PAP side, Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran, 58, who has been a West Coast GRC MP since 1997, and on the PSP side, Dr Tan Cheng Bock, 80, who was Ayer Rajah MP from 1980 to 2006. Ayer Rajah SMC was absorbed into West Coast GRC in 2006.

Mr Iswaran yesterday took aim at the PSP’s manifesto, saying it contained broad statements but few details. “The term ‘trade-off’ has been used,” he said of the 13-page PSP manifesto which has sections on the economy, politics and social development.

Speaking to reporters after the latest of walkabouts in the constituency, he said: “What is a trade-off? A trade-off means you have to give up something in order to get something. If you look at what is being said by the other side, they talk only about what they want to get, but they don’t tell you what you have to give up in order to get it.”

The PAP team has “understood in detail, with depth, the concerns and needs of our people, and has mounted national programmes as well as local programmes”, whereas “on the other side, you have a team that has basically put out a very short manifesto with broad statements but lacking in detail”.

Both teams have been visiting markets and homes in the GRC nearly every day for the past week.

The race in the constituency has been attracting attention since Dr Tan – who used to win elections in Ayer Rajah by comfortable margins when he was with the PAP – declared his intention to contest there early this year. It heated up further on Nomination Day, when the PAP slate was boosted by the addition of Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee, 43.

Responding to Mr Iswaran yesterday evening, Dr Tan said it would be up to Singaporeans to judge the PSP manifesto: “A manifesto is up to your interpretation; we feel like our manifesto was crafted in the interest of Singaporeans, so it’s up to their interpretation. If they think we have done a lousy manifesto, it’s not up to him to say. It’s for the people to decide.”

In its online rallies and manifesto, the PSP had attacked the PAP Government’s stance on free trade agreements, especially those that cover labour exchanges which pave the way for freer movement of labour between Singapore and another country.

Yesterday, Dr Tan also reiterated comments made on how the PAP was irresponsible to call an election during a pandemic, adding that the ruling party needs to focus on the public health aspect of the outbreak and not just jobs.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is a Covid-19 election. If you don’t control Covid-19… all the borders are closed to us. Where are we going to get people to come here to invest? Where are you going to get those people to come here as tourists? These are very fundamental, basic things,” he said during a walkabout in Pioneer SMC.

He also pointed to his experience as a doctor in treating infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and said he had made proposals on how the Covid-19 outbreak might be handled.

In the early part of the campaign, both sides had focused their messages on their backgrounds and what they could do for the constituency.

WHERE ARE THE DETAILS?

You have a team that has basically put out a very short manifesto with broad statements but lacking in detail.

MINISTER FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION S. ISWARAN, on the Progress Singapore Party’s manifesto.

WHO’S THE JUDGE?

If they think we have done a lousy manifesto, it’s not up to him to say. It’s for the people to decide.

DR TAN CHENG BOCK, on Mr S. Iswaran’s criticisms of the PSP manifesto.

Dr Tan cited his own experience in town management, as he had chaired Jurong East Town Council, Bukit Timah Community Development Council and, later, West Coast-Ayer Rajah Town Council.

Besides Dr Tan, the PSP team includes its assistant secretarygeneral Leong Mun Wai, 60, vice-chairman Hazel Poa, 50, and party members Jeffrey Khoo Poh Tiong, 51, and Nadarajah Loganathan, 57.

The PAP slate comprises Mr Iswaran, Mr Lee, incumbent MP Foo Mee Har, 54, former Jurong GRC MP Ang Wei Neng, 53, and first-time candidate Rachel Ong Sin Yen, 47.

When it comes to improvements on the ground in West Coast GRC, the PAP team has split up the work among themselves. They plan for Mr Ang to focus on healthcare services and transport connectivity; Ms Foo on jobs, skills and helping small and medium-sized enterprises; and Ms Ong on issues related to family and youth.

Mr Lee said that if elected, the team’s most immediate mission would be to bring government help schemes to the ground, “to ensure that the schemes the Government enacted to help citizens at this time of crisis reach the families who need the help”.

TAN CHENG BOCK FACTOR

Yesterday, the PSP team went on walkabouts at three of the largest markets in the constituency. Dr Tan was the team’s main crowd-puller, with residents and supporters approaching him for wefies and autographs. He was very popular with the residents during his 26 years as MP for Ayer Rajah.

He also stood in the 2011 Presidential Election and lost to Dr Tony Tan by just 7,382 votes.

Among his supporters in West Coast GRC is Ms Zarena Akbarshah, 40, who works in the aviation industry. Her parents, who are in their 60s, have lived in Pandan Gardens for almost four decades. When they were looking to move from a three-room to a five-room flat, they insisted on remaining in the area as Dr Tan was a good MP, she said.

“He was always there to help citizens and always improved the residential areas and listened to residents. That’s something we shouldn’t lose – the human touch,” she said. “So when I heard he’s coming here (to contest), I felt excited.”

Dr Tan himself described his return to the West Coast area as “coming home”.

“I’d like to believe my old residents didn’t see me just as an MP, but as a friend,” he said.

Some residents, however, have concerns about Dr Tan’s age. He first became an MP in 1980, the year Mr Desmond Lee’s father, Mr Lee Yock Suan, entered politics. Mr Lee went on to become a Cabinet minister and both he and Dr Tan retired from politics in 2006.

Dr Tan, of course, has since decided to make a comeback. At 80, he is the oldest candidate in this general election.

Pandan Gardens resident Andrew Ho, 75, said Dr Tan’s age is a factor in his decision on who to vote for.

“His stamina may not be so good. His ideas may be outdated. We need an MP who is dynamic,” said the retiree who used to be a businessman in the education sector.

He thinks Ms Foo, the incumbent MP for Ayer Rajah ward until Parliament was dissolved last month, is “good”.

He also expressed concern that Dr Tan is a “one-man show”, adding that he did not know anyone else in Dr Tan’s PSP team.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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‘Our waters!’ Britons FURIOUS over French plot to block UK fishing ports after Brexit

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Brexit talks between the UK and the European Union ended prematurely on Thursday with outstanding issues remaining over trade and fisheries. EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has demanded a level playing field with the UK over trade as well as access to UK fishing waters after the transition period – something his counterpart David Frost has rejected.

Britain is on course to leave the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) next year and become an independent coastal state – free to set its own tariffs and quotas on stocks.

Following the breakdown of talks, fishing expert and CEO of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisation Barrie Deas, has warned French fisherman could block UK ports if its fisherman have reduced access to UK waters.

The proposition of a stand-off in the English Channel has prompted a furious response from a number of Express.co.uk readers, who let their feelings known on the websites Facebook page.

One angry user said: “They’re our waters, we let the EU use them to the detriment of our own fishing industry when we foolishly joined the EU.

“The French or any EU country does not have the right to fish in our sovereign territory unless we say so.”

A second reader said: “They have plundered our fish stocks long enough- time to give nature a rest, and to give our fishermen the rights to fish unhindered in our own waters!”

A third commented: “Typical of macron wants everything his own way.

“They are British fishing waters, not French, pay for what you take and only take what we say.”

Meanwhile a fourth simply said: “Our waters our fish they need to accept that.”

Mr Deas explained how a lack of a deal on fisheries would impact the fishing Industry in France.

He claimed the current deal negotiated in 1983, ensured 84 percent of the quota of cod in the English Channel went to France, compared to just nine percent staying in the UK.

He told Express.co.uk: “French fishermen have a long track record of blockading Channel ports when they’re upset about something.

“They’ve done it for much lesser reasons than the UK becoming an independent coastal state, renegotiation of quotas, even if there is access for French fishermen.

“I think it would be naive to expect they will be happy about this or do nothing about it.

“There’s a long history of those kinds of blockades.”

Following the four-days of talks in Brussels, Mr Barnier said there were still “serious divergences” between the two sides.

He said: “Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement.

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“However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain.”

The EU negotiator firmly pointed the blame towards the UK and said the bloc had engaged “constructively” and added officials needed to see an “equivalent engagement from the UK side”.

Mr Frost said: “We have completed our discussion of the full range of issues in the negotiation in just over three days.

“The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful. But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues.”

The next round of Brexit trade talks will take place next week in London.

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Singapore GE updates, July 4: Where are the parties' big guns | 101 overseas S'poreans won't get to vote due to system glitch

Dear ST reader,

It’s the last weekend before Polling Day, and the parties are all out campaigning.

All eyes are on where the parties’ top leaders choose to walk the ground. ST executive editor Sumiko Tan explains why it matters.

The parties are also hoping to shift voters’ attention to what they feel should be the core issues in this election. For the PAP, it is steering Singapore through the Covid-19 crisis. For the opposition, it is the need for a constructive opposition in Parliament.

For more updates, follow our election coverage at: str.sg/GE2020

WP’s goal is not to needle the PAP: Pritam Singh

“Our goal is not to go there and needle the PAP. We want good outcomes for Singapore,” says the WP chief.

READ MORE

Covid-19 crisis should be focus of all parties: Chan Chun Sing 

This point was glaringly missing from the opposition parties’ manifestos and discussions, said Mr Chan.

READ MORE

101 overseas S’poreans won’t get to vote due to ICA system glitch

The applications of some overseas Singaporeans to register their local contact addresses for voting purposes were not processed.

READ MORE

Editor’s Take: Where the parties’ big guns are campaigning this weekend

ST executive editor Sumiko Tan on who’s where this weekend and why it matters.

READ MORE

East Coast-Fengshan Town Council says uniformed workers seen with PAP bags were not doing its work

Netizens have asked why town council workers were distributing bags bearing the PAP logo.

READ MORE

PSP decision on NCMP will be made when time comes: Tan Cheng Bock

“Currently, at the moment, I don’t accept the NCMP,” says Dr Tan. “How can you go to Parliament and just talk? Who are you talking for?”

READ MORE

NCMP scheme a ‘winning hand’ for Singapore democracy: ESM Goh Chok Tong

“The reality is no NCMP scheme would prevent an incompetent, unpopular or corrupt ruling party from being swept out of power – and deservedly so,” says Mr Goh.

READ MORE

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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Singapore GE2020: 101 overseas Singaporeans won't get to vote due to glitch in ICA system

SINGAPORE – Some overseas Singaporeans will not get to vote in the general election as a result of a glitch in the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority’s (ICA) system.

On Saturday (July 4), the ICA apologised to the 101 affected Singaporeans and promised to improve the robustness of its systems.

In a joint statement with the Elections Department (ELD), the authority said it was informed by ELD that the applications of some overseas Singaporeans to register their local contact addresses for voting purposes were not processed.

Singaporeans who have changed their NRIC address to an overseas address have to provide a local contact address if they wish to vote in an election. This is so that the ELD can allot the voter to an electoral division to vote in.

After it was informed by the ELD, the ICA uncovered a glitch in its system, which led to a failure to generate hard copy letters to be sent to the owners of the local contact address. These letters would otherwise have been sent by registered mail to the owners, to confirm that they agree to the use of the address by the overseas Singaporean.

As a result, the ELD would not have received a confirmed local contact address for these Singaporeans and did not include their names in the Registers of Electors.

On March 13, the ELD had announced that the Registers were opened for inspection by Singaporeans, including overseas Singaporeans, from March 14 to March 27. A total of 168 Singaporeans who submitted claims to be included in the Registers were added, making for a total of 2,653,942 registered voters.

But the 101 overseas Singaporeans did not submit claims to be included in the Registers.

Under the Parliamentary Elections Act, no further names can be included in the Registers for the current elections after the Registers have been certified. As the Registers were certified on April 15, these 101 individuals will not be able to vote in the July 10 polls.

The ICA said it is reaching out to the affected Singaporeans. Those who wish to seek further clarifications can e-mail ICA at [email protected]

According to ELD, there are 6,570 overseas voters in the general election.

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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Singapore GE2020: Time to move on from 10m population dispute says SDP, accuses PAP of 'desperation'

SINGAPORE – Singapore Democratic Party leaders Paul Tambyah and Chee Soon Juan said it was time for the election campaign to move on from the 10 million population dispute – but not before accusing the PAP of “desperation” and asserting again that their party had come out on top.

Party chairman Paul Tambyah, speaking on Saturday (July 4) during a walkabout in Bukit Panjang, which he is contesting, also praised his election rival, the People’s Action Party’s Liang Eng Hwa, for declining to comment on the population saga when asked by reporters.

“That is exactly the way it should be. This is what we want this campaign to be fought on. We don’t want it to be fought on personal attacks, on events which occurred one year ago… We want to talk about the issues,” he said.

“We want to have a fair campaign, have people look at the different visions for how we want to see Singapore in a post-Covid era.”

Prof Tambyah’s call to move on came after he reiterated that the SDP extracted a promise from the Government that it was not aiming for a 10 million population target for Singapore.

The PAP and its leaders have repeatedly said there have never been such plans, and accused the SDP and Dr Chee, its secretary general, of attempting to mislead Singaporeans.

On Saturday, Dr Chee said the PAP was “beating a dead horse” by having continued to raise the issue. He told reporters at a coffee shop in Bukit Batok after a walkabout: “We said what we wanted to say. Job done, mission accomplished.

“Now we are asking voters to get us into Parliament to make sure that the PAP, what it says before the election, it continues to hold on to it after the election.”

One of the SDP’s key planks in the election was a call to voters to say “no” to what the party said was the PAP’s plan to increase Singapore’s population to 10 million.

The SDP maintains that the 10 million figure was from a Straits Times report on remarks by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat at a dialogue with Nanyang Technological University students in March last year.

The March 29, 2019 article on the dialogue, which included a question on population density, reported that Mr Heng said Singapore’s population density is not excessive, and noted that other cities are a lot more crowded in terms of liveable space.

The article also said Mr Heng cited former chief planner Liu Thai Ker, who said in 2014 that Singapore should plan for 10 million people for it to remain sustainable in the long term.

Mr Heng had cited Mr Liu in his response to a question on the Government’s 2013 Population White Paper. However, he had stressed that the number goes beyond how densely populated Singapore would be. The social space is as important, he said, adding that openness and understanding is important.

But Mr Heng did not say Singapore should plan for 10 million people – nor did he mention the figure.

Dr Chee cited the report in a televised debate on Wednesday night, claiming that Mr Heng had toyed with the idea of raising the population to 10 million – a charge refuted several times by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan of the PAP, who also took part in the debate.

Dr Balakrishnan told Dr Chee at the debate that the 10 million figure was a “strawman” and a “falsehood”, adding: “Let me state for the record: We will never have 10 million. We won’t even have 6.9 million. The Government doesn’t have a target for the population.

“What we want is a Singapore core that is demographically stable, able to reproduce ourselves, able to create opportunities and jobs for ourselves and able to stay as a cohesive whole. It is not a target, and it’s certainly not 10 million.”

On Friday, the PAP released a statement, saying it was “disappointed that Dr Chee and the SDP have dug their heels in, repeated their falsehoods and refused to apologise to Singaporeans for misleading them”.

In that same statement, the party also criticised Prof Tambyah, saying: “We are disappointed and surprised Dr Paul Tambyah, the SDP’s chairman, has joined his chief in this charade. We thought he was a better man.”

On Saturday, Prof Tambyah described the PAP’s comments as being “a sign of desperation”, and said it showed that the ruling party had “run out of ideas”.

“So, they’ve resorted to the old PAP tactics of just politics of personal destruction.”

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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Singapore GE2020: East Coast GRC to be a good place for families and seniors, says Heng Swee Keat

SINGAPORE – East Coast must be a good place for families to raise children and for seniors to grow old in, said Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Saturday (July 4).

In the PAP’s second online rally for the constituency, he and the other four candidates shared personal anecdotes about parenthood and ageing, linking these to the challenges that many Singaporeans face in both areas.

For instance, Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman recounted how his late father had mild dementia, which impacted his recovery from an eye operation.

“He forgot that he had just gone for surgery and when he went for his shower… he rubbed his eye so hard that it bled terribly and he ended up blinded,” Dr Maliki said, adding that these are issues that Singaporeans will increasingly have to grapple with as the population ages.

In his Siglap ward – in which 70 per cent of housing is private – a scheme has been set up to pick up seniors from their homes and take them to community centres for programmes on a daily basis.

And in Fengshan, overseen by MP Cheryl Chan, the number of eldercare centres has been increased to meet residents’ needs. There are also plans to increase support for caregivers of dementia patients across the GRC.

A variety of programmes must also be rolled out for healthy seniors, Mr Heng said. “Our seniors should not just be defined by age, because their activities and what they hope to do in the future are also very different, so we must have a whole range of programmes to cater to that,” he said.

Parenting was also discussed – in a personal way – as new face Tan Kiat How is expecting his first child in August. The former Infocomm Media Development Authority chief executive will take over retiring MP Lee Yi Shyan’s Kampong Chai Chee seat, if elected.

“I’m honestly a little bit nervous, it’s my first time being a parent,” Mr Tan said. “I’m very grateful for all the residents I’ve met over the last few days, who were offering me tips on how to take care of my first child.”

Dr Maliki, who moderated the discussion, asked Mr Heng to share his thoughts on the costs of raising a child, an issue which he said has been raised by many young couples.

Mr Heng, who was formerly education minister, responded that every child gets about $50,000 in subsidies from birth to preschool. And from Primary 1 to the end of secondary school, the Government pumps in another $130,000 per child, he said, adding that tertiary education is also highly subsidised.

On plans specific to East Coast, Ms Chan noted that the new flats in her Fengshan ward have resulted in an increased demand for childcare spaces. This issue was solved by converting PAP Community Foundation kindergartens into childcare centres, she added.

Upcoming developments in the Bayshore area – which will be served by two new MRT stations on the Thomson-East Coast Line – also hold promise for young families, Mr Heng said.

The team, which includes three-term backbencher Jessica Tan, also discussed issues such as green developments in the constituency and helping people keep their jobs in the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mr Heng called for Singaporeans to work together to turn good ideas into action. “I would like very much to see that we can bring together everyone, both in conversation and in action.”

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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Singapore GE2020: WP chief Pritam Singh says its goal is not to needle the PAP, acknowledges hard task of creating jobs

SINGAPORE – Workers’ Party chief Pritam Singh said the party will play a constructive role in Parliament and not needle the People’s Action Party (PAP), as he acknowledged the difficult task ahead for the Government in creating jobs.

He said on Saturday (July 4) that the issue of jobs is even more sensitive now for many Singaporeans who are affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Rather than challenge the PAP on that, because they have got a very difficult job in that regard, I think our role as the opposition is to make sure that when we represent the people in Parliament, we are bringing their voices into Parliament on that front,” he said.

“Our goal is not to go there and needle the PAP. We want good outcomes for Singapore.”

Mr Singh was speaking on the sidelines of a walkabout at the Marine Terrace Market, where he was joined by the five-member WP team for Marine Parade GRC. Also present was WP chairman Sylvia Lim.

Mr Singh also dismissed the PAP’s assertion that the three biggest opposition parties could come together and form a replacement government.

He said such a prospect – put forward by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing at a Mandarin dialogue on Thursday (July 2) – is not realistic.

“It took 16 years after our Independence for the opposition to win even one elected seat, and 23 years after 1988, when the GRC system introduced, for the opposition to win one GRC,” pointed out Mr Singh, referring to WP’s JB Jeyaretnam winning the Anson seat in the 1981 by-election as well as his team’s victory in Aljunied GRC in 2011.

“Let’s put this fear-mongering in perspective, and I hope that the historical look-back is helpful in terms of how realistic this prospect that (Mr Chan) says is possible. I don’t think it is possible at all.”

On the 10-million population debate, Mr Singh said: “When we deal with public discourse, I think it is very helpful, in fact critical, that we all deal with objective information.”

He said earlier this year, he had asked in Parliament when a review for the Government’s 2013 Population White Paper would take place. This was in response to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s comments in 2013 that there would be a review of plans in it closer to this year.

But Mr Singh was told this was already done in 2018, during the Committee of Supply debate where Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said the population would be significantly below 6.9 million in 2030.

He said it would be helpful if the Government could share with the public its thinking and “what is its way forward”.

The WP team contesting Marine Parade GRC is helmed by second-time candidate Ron Tan, 35, who contested in Nee Soon GRC in the 2015 election.

His running mates are WP veteran and former Non-Constituency MP Yee Jenn Jong, 55, as well as new faces Fadli Fawzi, 39, Nathaniel Koh, 36, and Azhar Abdul Latip, 34. Mr Yee is the only member to have contested in the GRC before.

On the new faces in the Marine Parade GRC team, Mr Singh said Singapore has become a much more complex society, hence the need for a diverse slate to cater to the different groups of people.

“As far as possible, strategically, we plan as much as we can because we always need good people to come forward. And we try to deploy them in a way where they can add value to the public conversation, add value in Parliament, and ultimately serve their residents if they elected,” he added.

The WP team in Marine Parade is up against a PAP slate comprising Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong, incumbent Seah Kian Peng, as well as new faces Tan See Leng and Mohd Fahmi Aliman.

During the walkabout on Saturday morning, the WP team and their supporters distributed fliers to residents. They also chatted and exchanged fist bumps with Dr Tan and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who were also at the market.

On whether the team stood a greater chance of winning now that ESM Goh is not running, Mr Singh said: “I would never speculate about chances. But I always tell our candidates, ‘Look, anything worthwhile is going to take your best efforts and if you are not prepared to work hard, you shouldn’t be here’. They have committed to do their best, and I will leave it to them to drive the campaign in Marine Parade.”

Mr Yee, who led the WP team at the last GE, told The Straits Times that passing on the team leader role is part of the party’s renewal process.

Noting that his teammates have years of experience helping in community projects and Meet-the-People sessions, he said: “The other team members may be young, but several of them have as much, if not more experience with the party than I.”

In his maiden electoral battle in Joo Chiat SMC in 2011, Mr Yee lost to veteran PAP backbencher Charles Chong by just 388 votes.

The single seat was absorbed into Marine Parade GRC in 2015, and the WP team lost with 35.9 per cent of the vote against the PAP team.

Still, Mr Yee said his party has remained active in Marine Parade and regularly initiated projects such as distributing food to needy families during the pandemic.

The entrepreneur was coy when asked if this would be his last contest. “I only want to do my best for this election,” he said. “If there are better people and I need to step back, then I would be happy to do that.”

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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‘No surrender!’ Boris told not to compromise on trade as Brexit talks on brink – poll

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Brexit talks between the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost and his EU counterpart Michel Barnier ended on Thursday a day earlier than planned after both sides saw no pathway to a deal. After the first face-to-face meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr Frost stated “significant differences” remain, while Mr Barnier refused to shift on the EU’s red-lines on a level playing field and access to UK fishing waters.

The conclusion of the fourth round of discussions has put both sides on course for a no deal outcome at the end of the transition period on December 31.

A poll of more than 13,000 Express.co.uk readers has found nine out of ten believe UK negotiators should stand their ground with Brussels.

The survey conducted on Friday July 3 between 8.53am and 7.00pm asked 13,687 readers “Is it time for Boris Johnson to compromise in trade talks with the EU?”

A huge 93 percent (12,695) of people thought the Prime Minister should not seek a compromise with the EU and voted no.

The conclusion of the fourth round of discussions has put both sides on course for a no deal outcome at the end of the transition period on December 31.

A poll of more than 13,000 Express.co.uk readers has found nine out of ten believe UK negotiators should stand their ground with Brussels.

The survey conducted on Friday July 3 between 8.53am and 7.00pm asked 13,687 readers “Is it time for Boris Johnson to compromise in trade talks with the EU?”

A huge 93 percent (12,695) of people thought the Prime Minister should not seek a compromise with the EU and voted no.

A second reader wrote: “Never compromise, they must be made to understand they cannot control us any longer for that is what they are trying to do.”

A third commented: “No compromise on anything if they don’t want a trade deal just leave on WTO terms and keep our integrity and sovereignty intact, no EU input laws or rules into anything in the UK.”

A fourth simply said: “NO Compromise. NO Surrender.”

Following the meeting in Brussels, David Frost said the meeting in person had given “extra depth and flexibility” to the discussions but he warned there was more to do.

READ MORE: Coronavirus map LIVE: Significant gaps in Boris Johnson’s data

He said: “We have completed our discussion of the full range of issues in the negotiation in just over three days.

“The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful. But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues.”

Michel Barnier warned there were still “serious divergences” between the two sides

He said: “Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement.

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“However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain.”

Mr Barnier added Brussels had “listened carefully” to the UK’s demands but insisted there could be no deal without agreements on fisheries and the level playing field which forces Britain to follow the EU’s standards.

He added: “We will continue to insist on parallel progress on all areas.

“The EU expects, in turn, its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement. We need an equivalent engagement by the United Kingdom.”

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EU digs its heels in: Brussels blames Britain for no progress – ‘Not our fault!’

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UK and EU officials ended talks a day early on Thursday with the bloc’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier insisting serious areas of divergence still remain. The Brexit trade deal talks marked the first to face discussions between the pair since the coronavirus pandemic began. In the fallout of the ending of negotiations this week, the Brexit representative of the EU Parliament and German MEP, David McAllister claimed the lack of progression was solely down to the UK’s negotiating position.

Speaking to Web.De, the MEP said: “I think the Tories’ European policy is very unfortunate.

“Brexit is and remains a historical mistake for me, but we have to accept the reality.

“In the upcoming rounds of negotiations, the British government should make it clear whether it is politically willing to reach an agreement by the end of October.

“The EU and the Member States are preparing in parallel for a UK exit from the single market and customs union without an agreement.

“Not doing that would be negligent.

“The responsibility is now clearly on the UK side.

“So far, it was not because of the European Union that there wasn’t any progress.”

Crucially, there are still four areas of divergence between the two sides: fisheries, the level playing field, judicial cooperation in criminal matters and governance.

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There have also been disagreements over access to the single market for UK financial services and data-sharing.

Chiefly, the level playing field has been stated as one of the EU’s main demands.

Brussels wants the UK to adhere to certain rules and regulations in order to maintain fair competition between the two sides.

This issue also trickles down into the concept of state aid which is an advantage granted by public authorities through state resources on a selective basis to any organisation.

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On judicial cooperation, the UK has insisted the European Court of Justice cannot have any role in the British judicial system.

Although Mr Barnier has hinted there could be room to compromise on fisheries, UK officials have demanded Britain be free of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The CFP has long been labelled as unfair for British fisherman as it allows EU boats equal access to the bloc’s economic zone.

Due to the UK’s large coastal area in comparison to other states, some have stated European fisherman benefit more from the policy.

The EU wants a single agreement on the governance on the future relationship of the treaty while the UK has insisted there must be multiple agreements.

On the matter, Mr Johnson told the LBC today: “I’m not remotely disrespectful of Michel or the EU system, which I know well and understand deeply.

“I just don’t think that it’s right for us to proceed on the basis of the European Court of Justice continuing to arbitrate in the UK or us continuing to have to obey EU laws even when we are out of the EU, or us having to hand over our amazing fish stock.

“So, we are not going to do those things. We made it very clear.

“We now need to make sure we get a good deal.

“I’ve had some very good conversations with friends and colleagues around the EU.

“I’m a bit more optimistic than Michel is there.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg.

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Politics

Singapore GE2020: PAP, opposition parties speak to voters in first constituency political broadcast

SINGAPORE – The first of six constituency political broadcasts for the general election was aired on TV, radio and online on Friday (July 3). The parties contesting in five constituencies – Aljunied, Ang Mo Kio and Bishan Toa Payoh GRCs, and Bukit Batok and Bukit Panjang SMCs – addressed their voters.

Those standing in four- and five-member GRCs were given 12min and 15min respectively, while SMC candidates had three minutes to speak. The broadcasts run until next Wednesday and constituencies are lined up alphabetically.

As rallies cannot take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the broadcasts are one-off arrangements to give candidates more airtime to get their messages to voters.

ANG MO KIO GRC


The PAP’s Ang Mo Kio GRC candidates (from left) Lee Hsien Loong, Nadia Samdin, Gan Thiam Poh, Darryl David and Ng Ling Ling. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Government has stabilised the Covid-19 situation after fighting for the last few months. While the People’s Action Party(PAP) town council has handed out service and conservancy charges rebates to residents and shops, “the crisis is far from over”, he added.

All five PAP candidates – Mr Lee, Mr Gan Thiam Poh, 56, Mr Darryl David, 49, Ms Nadia Samdin, 30, and Ms Ng Ling Ling, 48 – spoke during the broadcast.

“The crisis is the biggest challenge Singapore has faced since independence,” said PM Lee, 68. “We do our best to keep everyone safe and healthy, and to support our economy. Our focus is on jobs: Protecting existing jobs and creating new jobs.”

There are 24 town career centres, including one in Cheng San to help those who are looking for employment. Two community job fairs will also be held in the town’s Yio Chu Kang and Cheng San Community Clubs and those who have lost their jobs or incomes due to Covid-19 will get help, said the PM.

With AMK home to many senior residents, the PAP will continue to carry out pro-senior and pro-family projects in the district, including the establishment of a silver zone and renovation of elevators, said Mr Gan.

The Reform Party was represented by Mr Charles Yeo, 30, and Ms Noraini Yunus, 52. They spoke about their plan to build a better and fairer society for Singaporeans. Mr Andy Zhu, 37, was ill and unable to take part.


The Reform Party was represented by Mr Charles Yeo and Ms Noraini Yunus. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

Mr Yeo, a lawyer, told voters that the party has heard their complaints about high service and conservancy charges, and raised the issue of ageing HDB flats. “The HDB should not be allowed to profit and flats should be affordable,” he added.

Speaking in Malay, Ms Noraini called for more government spending to combat the economic fallout of Covid-19. She said: “We want a better social safety net, universal health care, family cash payments, senior pensions and a minimum wage.”

Pointing to elderly Singaporeans who work as carpark attendants, service staff and cleaners, and those seen picking up cardboard and tin cans, Mr Yeo said in Mandarin that the “PAP does not care for your lives”.

He also said residents they met during walkabouts had complained about not seeing their MP. The PAP MPs’ “claims of dedication ring hollow unless one is prepared to be a full-time MP”, he added.

He claimed that these MPs have well-paying full-time jobs and “so they won’t work for the people and they are sleeping in Parliament”.

BISHAN-TOA PAYOH GRC


The PAP’s Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC candidates Ng Eng Hen, Chong Kee Hiong, Saktiandi Supaat and Chee Hong Tat. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

Defence minister Ng Eng Hen also dedicated his speech to the Covid-19 crisis, which he said has affected Singapore’s economy significantly.

While the Government had promised to reduce retrenchments and has drawn more than $50 billion from the reserves to help companies, he said some businesses may not survive.

“Vulnerable residents may lose their jobs and their families will be under great stress. Together we must help residents through this difficult period,” Dr Ng said.

Mr Chee Hong Tat, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and Education, said that the Government has set up the National Jobs Council to ensure Singaporeans remain employable. He is working with colleagues at the ministries to “create jobs, including in growth sectors like healthcare, early childhood education and training & adult education”, he added.

SGUnited Jobs and Skills Centres will also be set up in the constituency to organise job fairs and provide job-related services.

Dr Ng also pointed to improvements made in Bishan and Toa Payoh for residents, which include elderly fitness stations, covered walkways, a new community club in Bishan, and a three-generation mega recreation area in Toa Payoh that will be completed in a year.

Two other members of the PAP team – Mr Chong Kee Hiong, 54, and Mr Saktiandi Supaat, 46 – also spoke during the broadcast.

In his speech, Singapore People’s Party (SPP) secretary-general Steve Chia promised voters that if elected, his party’s candidates would commit to becoming full-time MPs. They plan to “hold public officers to greater accountability” and raise their constituents’ concerns in Parliament.

He said: “This Covid crisis has greatly impacted the world and Singapore. Our PM is now asking again for a strong mandate. Do you want the whole Parliament to have 93 elected MPs to speak PAP policies? I believe you want diversity of views, want alternative parties with alternative ideas to propose alternative solutions. You will also want a balanced Parliament to protect against power abuse.”


The SPP’s Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC candidates (from left) Melvyn Chiu, Williiamson Lee and Steve Chia. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

The PAP Government, said Mr Chia, has “neglected many areas of growing concerns”, including stagnating wages, cost of living, affordability of HDB flats, income inequality and foreign talents competing with Singaporeans for jobs.

He also raised the issue of Singapore’s reserves, stating that no one knew how much they were as “the PAP Government says it is a national secret”.

Two other members from the four-man SPP team – Mr Melvyn Chiu, 40, and Mr Williiamson Lee, 40 – also delivered their speeches during the broadcast.

Mr Chiu, 40, said: “This election is not about a report card for the PAP, it is not about a fresh mandate. It is about your livelihoods and the future of our younger generation.”

BUKIT BATOK SMC

Both candidates in their broadcasts said they could do a better job than the other as MP for Bukit Batok SMC. Mr Murali Pillai highlighted his 20 years of service in Bukit Batok, while Dr Chee Soon Juan said only a full-time MP, which he will be if elected, can handle the role’s responsibilities.

The incumbent Mr Murali delivered his speech in four languages. He brought up the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and said it is not enough to just have a plan.


The PAP’s Bukit Batok SMC candidate Murali Pillai. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

“You need to have the leadership, the people, the resources and the organisation,” he said.

Explaining why he has these qualities, he went on to say that he had forged bonds with community partners, leaders, volunteers and residents during his long years of service.

He cited a fund which he has helped set up to aid low-income families. Called the Helping Hands Fund, he said it was created to support those like the widow of a taxi driver who died from Covid-19 this year.

The family, who live in Bukit Batok, has a special needs grandchild and the loss of its main breadwinner had led to the woman reaching out to Mr Murali for help. The PAP candidate said he would launch food bank [email protected] Bukit Batok next year to provide halal food to families in need.

Meanwhile, Dr Chee said he would be a full-time MP if elected.


The SDP’s Bukit Batok SMC candidate Chee Soon Juan. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

“Mr Murali insists on doing the work on a part-time basis. What PAP MPs do is to contract out their work to profit-making businesses called managing agents. Residents end up paying an extra layer of costs,” Dr Chee said.

“I will personally see to it that only the most qualified and experienced professionals handle the job and they will be directly answerable to me.”

He promised to make the running of the estate transparent and accountable, publish an interim financial report for Bukit Batok Town Council and report on the handover process.

BUKIT PANJANG SMC

Mr Liang Eng Hwa of the PAP said residents could count on him to “work very hard” for Bukit Panjang estate. He listed the improvements he had secured for the town in the past.

Dr Paul Tambyah of the Singapore Democratic Party spoke on a range of issues, from running the town council with the active participation of residents to giving residents a retirement income and retrenchment insurance.

Mr Liang spoke in English and Mandarin. He began by saying that he was proud of the significant improvements in Bukit Panjang town in the last decade. These include new bus services, the upgrading of the Bukit Panjang LRT, a polyclinic and a second hawker centre.


The PAP’s Bukit Panjang SMC candidate Liang Eng Hwa. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

He then promised to continue investing in the town’s “continued vibrancy and sustainability” as it enters its 30th year.

But he also made reference to the economic headwinds brought about by the pandemic.

“I know our residents are concerned about their jobs, especially the young job seekers and workers above age 40.

“Rest assured, I will work with you to seek help to improve employability, through the various jobs and skills programmes.”

In Mandarin, he added: “Improving the town and the lives of the residents to me is not just a responsibility, but my mission.”

Dr Tambyah began by saying that he had taken note of issues Bukit Panjang residents have brought up during his walkabouts, including noise levels near loading bays and lift upgrading delays.


The SDP’s Bukit Panjang SMC candidate Paul Tambyah. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM YOUTUBE

He said his party promises that it will run the town council itself in partnership with residents.

“We will transparently demand all accounts be released to ensure a smooth transition. There will be no more investments in toxic financial products,” he said. He was referring to Holland-Bukit Panjang Town Council having invested some monies from its sinking fund in risky financial products that went bad during the 2009 Global Financial Crisis.

The SDP is committed to suspending the GST (goods & services tax) till end-2021, to introducing retrenchment insurance for residents and retirement income for low-income seniors. These measures are possible by using “slightly more” of the return on investment income and raising wealth taxes.

“A senior citizen with $500 or a retrenched single mother with $1,500 are far more likely to spend the money in a hawker centre or in the shops in Bukit Panjang than a billionaire putting his millions in the Cayman Islands,” he said.

“It is much better to have the cash in the hands of the people rather than corporations and hoping some of it trickles down to the rest of us.”

Singapore GE2020: Get full election coverage on our dedicated site here.

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