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How approval of Johnson & Johnson’s ‘one and done’ COVID-19 vaccine could change Canada’s vaccination game

A one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is now approved for use in Canada — and vaccine experts say the shot from Johnson & Johnson could give a major boost to countrywide vaccination efforts while offering a “real solution” to hasten the end of the pandemic.

Health Canada authorized its use and released details during a Friday morning announcement.

The vaccine, made by a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, is a non-replicating viral vector option and, unlike the three other vaccines previously approved for Canadian use, was tested during clinical trials as a single shot. 

So far, Canada is expecting 10 million doses, with options to purchase up to 28 million more if necessary, with most of those shots set to arrive by the end of September.

From a logistical standpoint, Toronto-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Isaac Bogoch said the benefits are clear.

“You can vaccinate more people in a shorter period of time,” he said. “You don’t have to clog up the vaccine centres with people getting their second dose — it’s one and done.”

The storage requirements are also less stringent than the early freezer requirements for the two mRNA-based vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, with Johnson & Johnson estimating its single-dose option should remain stable for two years at -20° C — and can be stored for at least three months in most standard refrigerators.

Wondering how each of the leading coronavirus vaccines compares? Click here for a closer look at the vaccines Canada is betting on to stem the spread of COVID-19.

“You can way more easily get a vaccine like this into primary care clinics and pharmacies, which means that you can distribute it so much more broadly,” said Bogoch, who is also a member of Ontario’s vaccine task force.

That’s good news in this country and beyond, said Dr. Zain Chagla, a Hamilton-based infectious disease specialist and professor at McMaster University.

“In remote areas of Canada, it’s a big vaccine in that sense that it’s easy to transport and get around, and it’s big for the rest of the world,” he said. 

“This is a vaccine that could go into mass vaccine clinics in low- and middle-income countries that could be stored on the back of a motorcycle to make it into a very, very remote setting. That is very, very different than anything we have in that sense.”

WATCH | J&J vaccine good for less accessible, marginalized communities, doctor says:

As a single dose COVID-19 vaccine, the Johnson & Johnson product will be especially helpful for people who sometimes have difficulty accessing health care, says Dr. Lisa Bryski, a retired ER doctor in Winnipeg. 1:23

85% effective at stopping severe disease

But where the vaccine excels at convenience, it may fall short on overall efficacy — though there are a lot of factors at play, and it’s crucial to note the shot is proving highly effective at reducing cases of serious illness.

According to February briefing documents from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Johnson & Johnson’s shot was both safe and effective in clinical trials, where it reduced the risk of COVID-19 and prevented PCR-test confirmed cases at least 14 days after vaccination.

A month earlier, the company had announced its vaccine was 66 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 against multiple variants in a global trial involving nearly 44,000 people.

That effectiveness varied from 72 per cent in the United States to 66 per cent in Latin America and 57 per cent in South Africa, where a new variant has spread.

In January, Johnson & Johnson announced its vaccine was 66 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 against multiple variants in a global trial involving nearly 44,000 people. (Phill Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images)

That’s in contrast to the even more powerful protection witnessed in clinical trials for the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which showed efficacy levels — in terms of preventing symptomatic COVID-19 infection — of 94 per cent and 95 per cent respectively after two doses.

Those trials, however, took place before the rise of several concerning variants of this virus. Each company also tested for slightly different outcomes, meaning the efficacy levels aren’t apples-to-apples comparisons.

On Friday, Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco likened it to comparing the scores of golfers who teed off during a calm moment to those who teed off when “winds were howling.”

“While it’s hard to make precise adjustment,” he said in a tweet, “it’s clear that equally good play will result in different scores.”

WATCH | Doctor who helped create Johnson & Johnson vaccine talks about its efficacy:

Dr. Dan Barouch, director, Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says the Johnson & Johnson vaccine he helped to create is highly effective against COVID-19 and new variants of concern. 5:11

Crucially, Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose option did prove 85 per cent effective overall when it came to stopping severe cases of the disease specifically.

The company’s main study also showed that 28 days or more after vaccination, the shot 100 per cent prevented hospitalizations and deaths.

“I think people discount how much practicality means to this vaccine rollout,” Chagla said. “You do see severe illness going down with this vaccine. You see hospitalizations coming down with this vaccine.”

One-dose could offer ‘real solution’

Virologist and vaccinologist Alyson Kelvin, who is working on Canadian COVID-19 vaccine development at the University of Saskatchewan’s VIDO-InterVac research institute, said for all vaccine developers, a safe and effective single-dose option has been the ultimate goal.

“Because people will be more interested in taking a vaccine if they don’t have to go back for their second shot, and which means that a vaccine will be more effective at getting to that community immunity that we need,” she said.

Like Chagla, she’s not alarmed by a slightly lower overall efficacy level.

“The goal of the vaccine is to protect people. Keeping them out of hospitals, keeping them from succumbing to disease,” she said.

And Chagla stressed that ultimately, this one-dose option could offer a “real solution” that helps countries like Canada tackle this year-long pandemic and alleviate the current burden on the health-care system from a virus that’s still widespread.

“It may not be the final strategy for vaccination,” he said. “But it’s a pretty good ‘right now’ strategy for vaccination.”

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CBC | Health News

U.S. approves Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine

The U.S. is getting a third vaccine to prevent COVID-19, as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose instead of two.

Health experts are anxiously awaiting a one-and-done option to help speed vaccinations, as they race against a virus that already has killed more than 510,000 people in the U.S. and is mutating in increasingly worrisome ways.

The FDA said J&J’s vaccine offers strong protection against what matters most: serious illness, hospitalizations and death. One dose was 85 per cent protective against the most severe COVID-19 illness, in a massive study that spanned three continents — protection that remained strong even in countries such as South Africa, where the variants of most concern are spreading.

“This is really good news,” Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), told The Associated Press Saturday. “The most important thing we can do right now is to get as many shots in as many arms as we can.”

Shipments of a few million doses to be divided among states could begin as early as Monday. By the end of March, J&J has said it expects to deliver 20 million doses to the U.S., and 100 million by summer.

A person is administered the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa, on Feb. 17. (Nardus Engelbrecht/The Associated Press)

J&J also is seeking authorization for emergency use of its vaccine in Europe and from the World Health Organization. Worldwide, the company aims to produce about 1 billion doses globally by the end of the year. On Thursday, the island nation of Bahrain became the first to clear its use.

Health Canada is still reviewing the vaccine. Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more, if necessary. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.

‘We’re champing at the bit to get more supply’

On Sunday, a U.S. advisory committee will meet to recommend how to prioritize use of the single-dose vaccine. And one big challenge is what the public wants to know: Which kind of vaccine is better?

“In this environment, whatever you can get — get,” said Dr. Arnold Monto of the University of Michigan, who chaired an FDA advisory panel that unanimously voted Friday that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh its risks.

Data is mixed on how well all the vaccines being used around the world work, prompting reports in some countries of people refusing one kind to wait for another.

WATCH | Will Canadians be able to choose which vaccine they get?:

Doctors answer questions about the latest COVID-19 vaccine news including whether Canadians will be able to choose which one they get. 5:48

In the U.S., the two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were 95 per cent protective against symptomatic COVID-19. J&J’s one-dose effectiveness of 85 per cent against severe COVID-19 dropped to 66 per cent when moderate cases were rolled in. But there’s no apples-to-apples comparison because of differences in when and where each company conducted its studies, with the Pfizer and Moderna research finished before concerning variants began spreading.

Collins said the evidence of effectiveness shows no reason to favour one vaccine over another.

“What people I think are mostly interested in is, is it going to keep me from getting really sick?” Collins said. “Will it keep me from dying from this terrible disease? The good news is all of these say yes to that.”

Also, J&J is testing two doses of its vaccine in a separate large study. Collins said if a second dose eventually is deemed better, people who got one earlier would be offered another.

The FDA cautioned that it’s too early to tell if someone who gets a mild or asymptomatic infection despite vaccination still could spread the virus.

There are clear advantages aside from the convenience of one shot. Local health officials are looking to use the J&J option in mobile vaccination clinics, homeless shelters, even with sailors who are spending months on fishing vessels — communities where it’s hard to be sure someone will come back in three to four weeks for a second vaccination.

WATCH | Canada’s procurement minister on Johnson & Johnson vaccine:

The CBC’s Tom Parry asks Procurement Minister Anita Anand how many doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine Canada will receive after it’s approved by Health Canada. 4:56

The J&J vaccine also is easier to handle, lasting three months in the refrigerator compared to the Pfizer and Moderna options, which must be frozen.

“We’re champing at the bit to get more supply. That’s the limiting factor for us right now,” said Dr. Matt Anderson of UW Health in Madison, Wisconsin, where staffers were readying electronic health records, staffing and vaccine storage in anticipation of offering J&J shots soon.

The FDA said studies detected no serious side effects. Like other COVID-19 vaccines, the main side effects of the J&J shot are pain at the injection site and flu-like fever, fatigue and headache.

The FDA said there is “a remote chance” that people may experience a severe allergic reaction to the shot, a rare risk seen with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

The vaccine has been authorized for emergency use in adults 18 and older for now. But like other vaccine makers, J&J is about to begin a study of its vaccine in teens before moving to younger children later in the year, and also plans a study in pregnant women.

All COVID-19 vaccines train the body to recognize the new coronavirus, usually by spotting the spike protein that coats it. But they’re made in very different ways.

WATCH | Provinces offer different timelines for COVID-19 vaccine rollout:

When Canadians will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine may depend on where they live. The provinces have started revealing their rollout plans, but the timing of who can get a shot varies across the country. 1:58

J&J’s shot uses a cold virus like a Trojan horse to carry the spike gene into the body, where cells make harmless copies of the protein to prime the immune system in case the real virus comes along. It’s the same technology the company used in making an Ebola vaccine, and similar to COVID-19 vaccines made by AstraZeneca and China’s CanSino Biologics.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are made with a different technology, a piece of genetic code called messenger RNA that spurs cells to make those harmless spike copies.

The AstraZeneca vaccine — which was approved for use in Canada on Friday and is already in use in numerous other countries — is finishing a large U.S. study needed for FDA clearance. Also in the pipeline, Novavax uses a still different technology, made with lab-grown copies of the spike protein, and has reported preliminary findings from a British study suggesting strong protection.

Still other countries are using “inactivated vaccines,” made with killed coronavirus by Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm.

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CBC | World News

Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine endorsed by U.S. advisers

U.S. health advisers endorsed a one-dose COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson on Friday, putting the nation on the cusp of adding an easier-to-use option to fight the pandemic.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to quickly follow the recommendation and make J&J’s shot the third vaccine authorized for emergency use in the U.S. Vaccinations are picking up speed, but new supplies are urgently needed to stay ahead of a mutating virus that has killed more than 500,000 people in the country.

After daylong discussions, the FDA panellists voted unanimously that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks for adults. If the FDA agrees, shipments of a few million doses could begin as early as Monday.

“There’s an urgency to get this done,” said Dr. Jay Portnoy of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. “We’re in a race between the virus mutating and new variants coming out that can cause further disease and stopping it.”

Health Canada is still reviewing the vaccine. Canada has ordered 10 million doses from Johnson & Johnson with options for up to 28 million more, if necessary. Most of those shots are expected to arrive by the end of September.

WATCH | Canada’s procurement minister discusses Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine:

The CBC’s Tom Parry asks Procurement Minister Anita Anand how many doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine Canada will receive after it’s approved by Health Canada. 4:56

More than 47 million people in the U.S., or 14 per cent of the population, have received at least one shot of the two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which FDA authorized in December. But the pace of vaccinations has been strained by limited supplies and delays due to winter storms.

While early J&J supplies will be small, the company has said it can deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and a total of 100 million by the end of June.

J&J’s vaccine protects against the worst effects of COVID-19 after one shot, and it can be stored up to three months at refrigerator temperatures, making it easier to handle than the previous vaccines, which must be frozen.

Strong protection against worst outcomes

One challenge in rolling out the new vaccine will be explaining how protective the J&J shot is after the astounding success of the first U.S. vaccines.

“It’s important that people do not think that one vaccine is better than another,” said panellist Dr. Cody Meissner of Tufts University.

The two-dose Pfizer and Moderna shots were found to be about 95 per cent effective against symptomatic COVID-19. The numbers from J&J’s study are not that high, but it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. One dose of the J&J vaccine was 85 per cent protective against the most severe COVID-19. After adding in moderate cases, the total effectiveness dropped to about 66 per cent.

Some experts fear that lower number could feed public perceptions that J&J’s shot is a “second-tier vaccine.” But the difference in protection reflects when and where J&J conducted its studies.

J&J’s vaccine was tested in the U.S., Latin America and South Africa at a time when more contagious mutated versions of the virus were spreading. That wasn’t the case last fall, when Pfizer and Moderna were wrapping up testing, and it’s not clear if their numbers would hold against the most worrisome of those variants.

Importantly, the FDA reported this week that, just like its predecessors, the J&J shot offers strong protection against the worst outcomes, hospitalization and death.

While J&J is seeking FDA authorization for its single-dose version, the company is also studying whether a second dose boosts protection.

Panel member Dr. Paul Offit warned that launching a two-dose version of the vaccine down the road might cause problems.

“You can see where that would be confusing to people thinking, ‘Maybe I didn’t get what I needed,”‘ said Offit, a vaccine expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “It’s a messaging challenge.”

New cases increasing

J&J representatives said they chose to begin with the single shot because the World Health Organization and other experts agreed it would be a faster, more effective tool in an emergency.

Cases and hospitalizations have fallen dramatically since their January peak that followed the winter holidays. But public health officials warned that those gains may be stalling as more variants take root in the U.S.

“We may be done with the virus, but clearly the virus is not done with us,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said, speaking at the White House on Friday. She noted that new COVID-19 cases have increased over the past few days.

While it’s too early to tell if the trend will last, Walensky said adding a third vaccine “will help protect more people faster.” More vaccines are in the pipeline.

On Sunday, a CDC panel is expected to meet to recommend how to best prioritize use of the J&J vaccine.

Other parts of the world already are facing which-is-best challenges. Italy’s main teachers’ union recently protested when the government decided to reserve Pfizer and Moderna shots for the elderly and designate AstraZeneca’s vaccine for younger, at-risk workers. AstraZeneca’s vaccine was deemed to be about 70 per cent effective in testing.

Canada became the latest country Friday to allow use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

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CBC | Health News

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Reveals His Father Rocky Johnson’s Cause of Death: ‘He Went Quick’

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Reveals His Father Rocky Johnson’s Cause of Death: ‘He Went Quick’ | Entertainment Tonight

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Why Boris Johnson’s win may be to Canada’s trade advantage: Don Pittis

Whether you love or hate the idea of Boris Johnson’s sweeping victory in last week’s U.K. election, there is a potential bright side for Canada.

Just as in our own parliamentary system that we inherited from Westminster, a party can win the most seats — even a commanding majority, like the British Conservatives — without the support of the majority of British people.

On any individual issue, such as trade, the result is even more complicated to decipher.

Some opinion polling has shown that many Britons would now be happy to remain part of the European Union. But under the first-past-the-post system, and with so many other things to vote for or against, the result is a British prime minister firmly committed to Brexit.

In the immediate aftermath of Thursday’s election, some commentators pointed to a soaring pound and rising markets as evidence that Brexit was good for business. That view has yet to be proven.

Business repellent

In the short term, the market rebound was more obviously a sense of relief that the policies of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn — which many business leaders found repellent — were now off the table.

Evidence for that could be seen in the fact that companies, including utilities, that the Labour leader had threatened to nationalize were some of the biggest gainers. In Friday trading, shares in Centrica, owner of British Gas, jumped 18 per cent — the biggest increase in the history of the company, according to Bloomberg News.

What many have called the “Corbyn risk” has passed and is not likely to return as the Labour Party looks for more voter-friendly policies. The Brexit risk itself has not gone away.

Rather than signalling optimism over Brexit, the rebound of the London market may be more about the defeat Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, which were widely disliked by business. (Tom Nicholson/Reuters)

The old saw that “markets hate uncertainty” can be partly set aside now that Johnson can claim he has a clear mandate to take the country out of Europe. But while Brexit may now be a surer thing, exactly what kind of Brexit it will be is far from settled.

And not only what kind of Brexit, but what kind of Britain, remains an open question.

The Scottish National Party headed by Nicola Sturgeon, increased her large majority of seats in Scotland, a nation that has repeatedly shown itself to be closer to European sensibilities, as opposed to those favoured by British Tories.

Better than bombs

The unresolved issue of how to keep an open border between a Northern Ireland outside Europe, and an Irish Republic inside of it, remains a point of contention that some say could do what so many bombs and guns have not: Make the Irish pull together in mutual support — outside the United Kingdom.

And those are just some of the many outstanding and potentially disruptive issues Johnson will have to face as the U.K. must not only renegotiate its relationship with the European Union, but also draft new trade deals with other countries outside the EU framework.

Despite the fact that the U.K. is Canada’s biggest European trading partner — or partly because of it — the potential chaos of Britain’s EU withdrawal will also affect this country.

Canada’s long and deep relationship with the British Isles means a lot of Canadian trade to Europe is routed through the U.K., often through British subsidiaries or parent companies.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party, which won 48 of 59 seats in Scotland, would prefer to stay in the European Union. (Russell Cheyne/Reuters)

If Johnson’s new deal, or lack of a deal — something he has threatened in the past — forces Canadian companies to change their trade routes, the result could be confusing and expensive.

Currently, and until such time as Britain formally departs from the EU, Canada’s trade with Britain operates under the rules of CETA, the pact finally hammered out between European leaders and Canada’s now-Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Canada’s experienced trade negotiators have already had a head start in trying to work out a new accord with Britain, but an unexpected move undercut Canada’s preferential deal that was in the works.

Since then, political uncertainty has put things on hold.

Cordial Canada

Now, with CETA in place and the revised North American trade deal close to ratification, Canadian negotiators are well placed to concentrate on an amicable arrangement with one of our oldest trade partners and support them through what may well be a tumultuous time.

Britain is Canada’s third-largest trading partner after the United States and China, and that trade has only grown since the completion of CETA.

With last week’s election, the U.K. is still just one big step closer to Brexit. Johnson must yet get a withdrawal agreement through the British House of Commons, and then some difficult negotiations begin.

The U.K. faces potentially unfriendly bargaining over the final terms of any deal with Europe, which, partly as a lesson to other members who might consider leaving, will be unlikely to make it too easy.

Among points of contention will be London’s place as Europe’s de facto financial capital. Already, corporate head offices and headquarters for European institutions have been scouting for new digs, including in Dublin.

After that, Britain will have to work out bilateral deals with just about everyone else in the world, notably with the U.S., where President Donald Trump has a history of trying to show off his Art of the Deal skills by publicly demanding concessions in any negotiation.

The threat of such demands possibly damaging the U.K.’s beloved National Health Service became an election issue.

Canada — with its own public health system, a climate change stance much closer to that of the British Conservatives, its tradition of similar state and legal institutions, and trade deals with both Europe and the U.S., plus a long and cordial trade relationship with its Commonwealth parent — can offer a less-threatening trade association that will be of great mutual benefit.

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

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CBC | World News

Boris Johnson’s big win may ‘get Brexit done’ but damaging fights loom

Boris Johnson has broken Britain’s deadlock over leaving the European Union with a dramatic election win but the victory could lead to new and potentially damaging confrontations with both Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Johnson, with his trademark floppy white hair and a reputation for making off-colour remarks, was dismissed by opponents — including many in his own party — as untrustworthy and something of a buffoon. But as the results began trickling in early Friday morning, it was clear his victory had dramatically redrawn the U.K.’s electoral map.

“What happens with elections is if you win, all the sins get washed away. He is at the pinnacle of his power,” said conservative commentator Craig Oliver,  who served as communications director for former Conservative prime minister’s David Cameron.

The Conservatives are on track to take at least 364 seats, giving Johnson’s party a healthy majority and handing the Labour Party its worst defeat in more than a generation.

“Just utterly devastating,” tweeted well-known Labour commentator Owen Jones,  “Brexit just smashed us. Keeping together an electoral coalition of “Remainers” and “Leavers” as the country bitterly divided just became impossible.”

Britain’s opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn waits for the General Election results of the Islington North constituency to be announced. His party lost big on Thursday night. (Hannah McKay/Reuters)

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn spoke only briefly after being proclaimed the winner in his riding of Islington North.   

In his speech, Corbyn said while he would be stepping down as leader, it might not happen right away. Corbyn suggested he planned to stick around through what could amount to a long a transition period.

Labour loses big in longtime strongholds

The Conservatives made deep inroads into traditionally Labour seats, especially in northern England,  as the vote appeared to polarize over Brexit.

“I want to thank Boris,” said winning Conservative candidate Ian Levy, whose surprise win in Blyth Valley early in the evening signalled the kind of night it would be for Labour.

No Tory had been elected there in almost 80 years. 

Nearby in Sedgefield, the seat of former Labour prime minister Tony Blair swung Conservative in a stunning upset.  And in Bassetlaw, a previously safe Labour seat near Sheffield, the Labour vote utterly collapsed.

“Brexit had been this dividing issue since the referendum was called and it seemed that [Brexit] cut across the traditional Labour-Conservative, left-right divide,” said Tim Durrant, associate director of the Institute for Government in London.

“People voted in terms of the party’s Brexit policy, as opposed to party loyalty.”

Scotland ‘flatly’ rejects Johnson’s plan, SNP leader says

But just as vast swaths of rural England turned Conservative blue, Scotland was painted with the yellow colour of the Scottish National Party. 

The SNP is on track to win to win an unprecedented 48 of Scotland’s 59 seats — a 13-seat increase. The major gains position Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as a major voice of opposition as Johnson moves forward with plans to break away from Europe. 

Scotland strongly backed the bid to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

Scottish National Party Leader Nicola Sturgeon celebrates as she hears her party has unseated Britain’s Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson. (Andy Buchanan/AFP/Getty Images)

“Boris Johnson’s argument to Scotland has been flatly and completely rejected,”  Sturgeon told the BBC in the early hours of Friday morning.   

“There is no doubt that I have a mandate to offer people that choice.”

Johnson is on the record as saying he will not agree to another referendum so soon after the last vote in 2014, which sets up an epic confrontation between two leaders with large majorities behind them.

The 2014 referendum on Scottish independence saw 55 per cent of voters cast their ballots to stay in the U.K. That vote was sanctioned by Westminster, whereas a future unsanctioned vote would be legally dubious.    

But Johnson, who will face major decisions and negotiations around Brexit even after securing his majority, will be in a difficult position politically if Sturgeon moves toward holding another referendum.

‘Northern Ireland is the one to watch’

The other major upset of the night came in Northern Ireland, where parties that favour strong ties with the rest of Britain were overtaken by those with more nationalist leanings.

“Northern Ireland is the one to watch,” said Durrant, noting that the election of 11 nationalist MPs there marks the first time ever that so-called unionist parties have been in the minority there.

“Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU, and there’s been a lot of disappointment in Northern Ireland about the way the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) supported the Conservative government.” 

If Scotland votes for a referendum, Durrant said it will no doubt intensify debate in Northern Ireland about whether its future lies inside or outside of the U.K.

‘We don’t really know him fully,’ analyst says

Johnson — a former journalist who has been in or around politics virtually his entire life — has long faced criticism for adopting and then shedding political positions with little apparent intellectual discomfort.

His hard opposition to Europe during the Brexit campaign surprised many Conservatives, as did his intense push over the last few months to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.    

Durrant said with a comfortable majority behind him and the need to appeal to all those first time Conservative voters,  Johnson’s thinking may yet evolve again.

“The thing with Boris Johnson is that we don’t really know him fully,”  he told CBC News in an interview.   

Voters headed out in dreary weather Thursday to cast their ballots in a rare December election. (Carl Recine/Reuters)

“He was London mayor for a long time and [London] is socially liberal and anti-Brexit.  And he took a different tone as mayor to some of his stances while as a conservative backbencher in Theresa May’s government and now PM.”

In the immediate future, Johnson is expected to assemble his MPs and to have a modest cabinet shuffle as early as Monday. Brexit legislation is expected to go for a vote before the end of January.

While most of London remained a Labour stronghold, Johnson’s win — and the promise of movement on Brexit — was taken as positive in the financial district, with the pound trading higher.

There was no such rejoicing, though, from Labour backers and anti-Brexit campaigners. The Labour supporting Daily Mirror put a big photo of Johnson on the front page with the caption: “The Nightmare before Christmas.”

For conservatives, however, a big majority and clear path ahead for Brexit is nothing short of a dream that only a few months ago seemed unattainable. 

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CBC | World News

U.K. Supreme Court unanimously finds PM Johnson’s suspension of Parliament unlawful

In a major blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the U.K.’s highest court ruled Tuesday his decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks in the crucial countdown to the country’s Brexit deadline is “unlawful.”

The unanimous Supreme Court ruling declared the order to suspend Parliament “void and of no effect.”

Supreme Court President Brenda Hale said the suspension is “unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”

She said the court’s decision means Parliament was never legally suspended and is technically still sitting.

Watch Hale’s ruling against Johnson’s suspension of Parliament:
The U.K.’s top court ruled unanimously that PM Boris Johnson’s government had shut Parliament to squelch debate on its Brexit policy. 0:55

The lower house of Parliament, the House of Commons, will sit on Wednesday, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said.

“I have instructed the House authorities to prepare not for the recall — the prorogation was unlawful and is void — to prepare for the resumption of the business of the House of Commons,” he told reporters.

“Specifically, I’ve instructed the House authorities to undertake such steps as are necessary to ensure that the House of Commons sits tomorrow,” at 11:30 a.m. local time (6:30 a.m. ET).

Watch Bercow announce the resumption of Parliament:

John Bercow says the U.K. House of Commons will resume business following the Supreme Court’s ruling that the suspension of Parliament was unlawful. 0:43

In this country without a written constitution, the case marked a rare confrontation between the prime minister, the courts and Parliament over their rights and responsibilities.

It revolved around whether Johnson acted lawfully when he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks during a crucial time frame before the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline when the U.K. is scheduled to leave the European Union.

“This is an unprecedented judgment,” Joelle Grogan, a law lecturer at Middlesex University, told CBC News. “This is the strongest judgment that I certainly have ever seen as a statement from the Supreme Court  against a government here in the U.K.”

Watch Grogan discuss the potential impact of the Supreme Court’s decision:

Joelle Grogan, a law lecturer at Middlesex University, discusses what the U.K. Supreme Court’s ruling against the suspension of Parliament means for Boris Johnson and Brexit. 0:57

Johnson, who is in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, says he “strongly disagrees” with the court’s ruling and won’t rule out suspending Parliament again. He has also refused to say whether he will resign.

Johnson said on Tuesday that the Supreme Court ruling against him had hindered his attempt to get a Brexit deal but that as the law currently stood, the U.K. would leave the EU on Oct. 31.

“Obviously getting a deal is not made much easier against this background, but we are going to get on and do it,” Johnson told reporters.

“I don’t think that it’s right, but we will go ahead, and of course Parliament will come back.”

Watch Johnson’s reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision:

The U.K. prime minister defended his prorogation of Parliament despite the country’s top court ruling that it was unlawful. 0:56

The Prime Minister’s Office said he won’t resign as prime minister. 

He’s set to take a flight from New York overnight, earlier than planned, which would bring him back to London by the time Parliament resumes on Wednesday, according to his office.

The ruling followed three days of hearings last week before a panel of 11 judges.

The court rejected the government’s assertions the decision to suspend Parliament until Oct. 14 was routine and not related to Brexit. It claimed that under Britain’s unwritten constitution, it is a matter for politicians, not courts, to decide.

Watch as the U.S. and U.K. leaders talk about the ruling at the United Nations:

U.S. President Donald Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson take questions from reporters about Johnson’s decision to shut down Parliament in the crucial countdown to Brexit, and a high court decision today saying Johnson’s move is unlawful. 2:01

U.S. President Donald Trump, who met with Johnson at the UN, said he had “no reaction” when he heard about the ruling, but he thinks the U.K. prime minister “is going to get it done,” referring to Brexit.

“I just asked Boris, and to him, it’s another day in the office. He’s a professional. It’s just another day in the office,” Trump told reporters.

The U.K. government’s opponents argue Johnson illegally shut down Parliament just weeks before the country is due to leave the 28-nation bloc for the “improper purpose” of dodging legislators’ scrutiny of his Brexit plans.

They also accused Johnson of misleading the Queen, whose formal approval was needed to suspend the legislature.

Johnson and Parliament have been at odds since he took power in July with the determination to take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a divorce deal with Europe.

Calls for Johnson’s resignation

The landmark decision immediately prompted demands that Johnson quit.

British Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn called on Johnson on Tuesday to consider his position and call a new election.

Watch Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn demand Johnson’s resignation:
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn says U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson should resign after the Supreme Court ruled that his suspension of Parliament was illegal. 0:47

To huge cheers and chants of “Johnson out!” Corbyn said the prime minister should become the shortest-ever serving leader and Labour is ready to form a government.

“I invite Boris Johnson, in the historic words, to ‘consider his position,'” Corbyn told delegates at the Labour Party’s annual conference in Brighton.

Scottish National Party legislator Joanna Cherry said Johnson should resign because of the Supreme Court ruling.

Cherry is one of the people who brought the legal case against the prime minister.

“His position is untenable and he should have the guts for once to do the decent thing and resign,” she said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the EU Parliament’s chief Brexit official Guy Verhofstadt says he is relieved that at least one key pillar of British life has survived: Parliamentary democracy.

Transparency campaigner Gina Miller called the ruling “a win for parliamentary sovereignty, the separation of powers and independence of our British courts.”

Miller, one of the people who brought the case against the government, said Johnson advised the Queen to shut down Parliament “to silence our democratically elected MPs at one of the most critical times in our country’s modern history.”

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U.K. lawmakers again reject Boris Johnson’s request for snap election

British lawmakers have rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s second request for an election before the country’s scheduled departure from the European Union next month.

A total of 293 of the 650 House of Commons members backed the proposal, well short of the two-thirds majority needed. Opposition lawmakers voted against the measure or abstained.

The U.K. government has now suspended Parliament until Oct. 14, little more than two weeks before Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.

On Sept. 4, the House of Commons denied Johnson’s first attempt to force an early election on Oct. 15. He also failed to gain the required two-thirds majority at this vote.

Johnson wants a snap election Oct. 15. But opposition parties say they won’t support an election until Britain has secured a delay to the Brexit date, to ensure the country does not crash out of the bloc without a deal.

Parliament has ordered the government to seek an extension if there is no deal by late October, but Johnson is vowing not to seek a delay.

Lawmakers also voted Monday to demand the government publish documents relating to its planning for a no-deal Brexit and private communications from government officials involved in a decision to suspend Parliament.

The 311 to 302 vote is binding on the government, but had been opposed by ministers who said there were concerns about the scope of the documents requested, and that they had been sufficiently transparent on the subject.

Late last month, the Queen granted Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament amid a growing crisis over Brexit.

Johnson had previously said he would send British politicians home sometime this week. The suspension limits Parliament’s ability to block his plans for Brexit.

Johnson said the United Kingdom must leave the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a divorce agreement. Politicians are trying to stop a no-deal Brexit, and some have branded the suspension a “coup.”

Earlier Monday, Johnson voiced optimism that a new Brexit deal can be reached so the U.K. leaves the EU by the end of October.

Speaking alongside Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in Dublin, Johnson said a deal on the Irish border question can be secured in time to enable a smooth U.K. departure from the EU by the scheduled Brexit date.

He said a “no-deal” departure from the EU would represent a “failure of statecraft,” and all sides would bear a responsibility for that.

Varadkar also said ahead of a meeting with Johnson that Britain has not produced any realistic alternatives to the controversial “backstop” agreement reached by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.

Opposition to the backstop was a key reason Parliament rejected May’s Brexit deal with the EU on three occasions earlier this year.

The backstop is intended to ensure no hard border is put up between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K.

Economic concerns

Varadkar said a no-deal departure would cause severe economic problems for Ireland now that border checks have been eliminated for an extended period of time.

The Irish leader said more negotiations are needed and that the Good Friday peace agreement, which states that no hard border is reimposed on the island of Ireland, must be respected.

The Dublin meeting marks the first time the two leaders have met since Johnson took power in July.

Varadkar has said he doesn’t expect a breakthrough in the impasse over how the Irish border will be handled once Britain leaves the EU.

Johnson plans to press a rebellious Parliament later Monday, before Parliament’s closure, to back his plan for an early election, but opposition parties have said they will vote the measure down. They want to make sure a no-deal departure is blocked before agreeing to an election.

A new bill that aims to force Johnson to seek a Brexit delay before the Oct. 31 deadline became law on Monday, receiving royal assent from Queen Elizabeth.

Johnson has said he will not seek a delay. His government is studying the bill for possible loopholes that might allow a legal challenge.

Speaker to quit

In a related development, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said he will step down by the end of next month after a decade in the job.

The colourful Speaker, famous for his bellowing cries of “Order!” during raucous debates, told lawmakers he will quit the same day Britain is due to leave the EU, unless an election is called before then. In that case, he will step down ahead of the campaign.

He said he will quit both as Speaker and as a member of Parliament.

U.K. Speaker of the House John Bercow gestures in this screen grab taken from video last March as the results of a vote on the Brexit deal were announced in Parliament. (Reuters)

Throughout the three years since Britain voted to leave the EU, Bercow has angered the Conservative government by repeatedly allowing lawmakers to seize control of Parliament’s agenda to steer the course of Brexit. 
He said he was simply fulfilling his role of letting Parliament have its say. Bercow said he had always “sought to be the backbenchers’ backstop.”

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A ‘pure product of the British elite’: How Europe sees Boris Johnson’s Brexit manoeuvres

“The English are a worn-out people. They need to regenerate themselves.” 

French president Charles de Gaulle said that 55 years ago to one of his ministers. He also vetoed Britain joining the European Common Market, the predecessor of the European Union. And he vetoed Britain not once, but three times from 1958 to 1963.

After De Gaulle died, the French relented and Britain joined the Common Market in 1973.

Forty-five years later, the English want out, not in. They said so in a referendum in 2016. (The Scots and the Irish of Northern Ireland voted in favour of staying in the EU.) But three years of raucous wrangling over the terms of withdrawal have left the English political class exactly where De Gaulle found them – worn out and in need of regeneration.

Enter Boris Johnson, the man who, according to his sister, wanted, as a child, to be “world king.” Like his hero Winston Churchill, he aspires to be a man of destiny. Johnson wrote a biography of Churchill that reviewers said read like a self-congratulatory autobiography.

Now, in an echo of Churchill, Johnson has exhorted his parliamentary troops into battle — England again alone against Europe. Britain must leave the European Union on Oct. 31, even without a deal.

But unlike Churchill in 1940, Johnson does not lead a government of national unity. In fact, as of Sept. 3, he doesn’t even have a majority in the House of Commons. More than 20 of his own MPs deserted him.

That led to humiliation – his government lost the first three votes with him as prime minister, a new and dubious record.

The result is a bill put forward by the opposition, soon to be ratified by both houses of parliament, blocking any no-deal Brexit. It also requires Johnson to ask Europe for an extension of the negotiation period for three months if no agreement is agreed by the House of Commons by mid-October.

‘The pure product of the British elite’

Johnson seems undeterred. His rhetoric remains bellicose. He calls the bill a “surrender bill” running up “the white flag.” Europe will have won; he won’t stand for it.

Opposition MPs — and some from his own party — who gently point out that Britain is not actually at war with Europe are ignored. Johnson demands an election.

But he hasn’t got that, either, at least not yet. Under recent British rules, two-thirds of MPs must vote for an early election, and only half voted in support of Johnson’s call.

Seen from Europe, this has become more than a farce — it is now a savage carnival, led by an untrustworthy carnival barker.

Half a century ago, French president Charles de Gaulle said, “The English are a worn-out people. They need to regenerate themselves.” (Chuck Mitchell/Canadian Press)

The French newspaper Le Monde painted this brutal portrait of Johnson on Aug. 29, after he announced a long suspension of parliament to try to force his MPs and the EU to bend to his will:

“He is the pure product of the British elite. There is the buffoon … and the liar, who didn’t hesitate to base his 2016 Brexit campaign on fallacious arguments. There is the dilettante. There is the polite and courteous statesman we saw at the G7 summit. And there is the populist, cynical and brutal prime minister, ready to do anything, including forcing the Queen to suspend parliamentary democracy to achieve his ends.”

Those words are a reflection of the scorn and anger felt at the top levels of the French government toward Johnson and his government.

The Germans are not so much angry as horrified. “If this happened in a southern country, we’d talk of a coup d’état,” Volker Perthes, who runs the German Institute of International Relations and Security, told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Relying on the Americans

The man and his manoeuvres are fodder for the headlines. But below the fodder and froth, there is a deeper fault line between Britain and Europe. De Gaulle 60 years ago wasn’t worried so much about Britain’s need for regeneration as he was by its inclination to choose, as he put it, “le grand large” – the open sea, and the United States.

A French historian, Robert Frank, highlighted the fault line as “the German obsession of the French and the American obsession of the British.”

Johnson’s insistence that the U.K. will leave the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a deal, has quite a few supporters. (Matt Dunham/The Associated Press)

Since the Second World War, French governments have clung tightly to Germany and the EU as the rampart against further European conflicts. The British have clung to their “special relationship” with Washington. This, one British foreign minister said, allows them “to punch above their weight.”

Boris Johnson and his cabinet are an extreme example of this longing for “le grand large.” In his speech to parliament on Sept. 3, he accompanied his warlike, anti-European rhetoric with a vision of a huge trade deal with Donald Trump’s government. This way Britain would continue to punch above its weight.

On cue, Trump offered Boris a pat on the back. “He’s in there fighting and he knows how to win. Boris knows how to win. Don’t worry about him, he’s going to be OK.”

And so the “man of destiny” charges on. The question is, which man of destiny will he resemble – Churchill or Churchill’s dauphin and successor, Anthony Eden? Eden crashed and burned when he tried to “punch above his weight” in 1956. He launched an invasion to take back the Suez Canal nationalized by the Egyptian government. It failed lamentably.

Eden was dumped from office after just 20 months.

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U.K. House of Commons rejects Boris Johnson’s request to hold early election

The House of Commons has denied a motion by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to force a snap election on Oct. 15.

Johnson failed to gain the required two-thirds majority. He needed to win the backing of at least 434 lawmakers, but only 298 voted in favour of an election while 56 voted against. The opposition Labour Party instructed its lawmakers to abstain on the vote. 

Johnson taunted Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying this was the first time in history the opposition has voted to “show confidence in Her Majesty’s government.”

The PM said he could only speculate as to the reasons why Corbyn would order his party to refrain from voting.  

“The obvious conclusion is, I’m afraid, that he does not think he will win.”

The decision came shortly after MPs approved a bill designed to force Johnson to seek a further delay to Brexit rather than leave the EU with no deal on the scheduled departure date of Oct. 31. The move underlined the lack of support for Johnson’s vow to take the U.K. out of the European Union with or without a deal. The bill now goes to the U.K.’s unelected upper chamber for approval.

An alliance of opposition MPs had the backing of 21 rebels from Johnson’s Conservative Party on the bill which would seek a three-month extension from the EU if Johnson has not secured a deal by the deadline.

Johnson cast the rebellion as an attempt to surrender to the EU and vowed never to delay Brexit beyond Oct. 31. 

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