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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves the European Council after the Brexit-dominated European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium Oct. 18, 2019.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is battling to persuade lawmakers to back the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement he signed with the European Union, ahead of a special session in the British Parliament scheduled Saturday. The vote on the deal is set to go to the wire and is likely to prove critical for Britain's future in or out of the EU.

Johnson's Conservative Party doesn't have a majority in the British Parliament, so the 10 votes of its allies, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), could be decisive.

However, the DUP has indicated it will vote against the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Johnson, because party leaders say it undermines Northern Ireland's bond with the United Kingdom.

FILE - In this April 11, 2019 file photo, Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster, center, speaks to journalists after her meeting with European Union chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier at EU headquarters.

"Saturday is not the end. Saturday is not even the beginning of the end, because there is a whole range of issues that have to be sorted out in the withdrawal agreement," DUP leader Arlene Foster said Friday.

Without the DUP, the prime minister will have to persuade some opposition members of Parliament to break ranks but opposition leaders have all rejected the deal, warning that it will give Prime Minister Johnson carte blanche to tear up regulations and workers' rights. Only a few Labour Party MPs are expected to vote for the revised agreement.

If he loses, Boris Johnson must by law ask the EU for a Brexit extension, something he has repeatedly ruled out. Some EU leaders are also reluctant.

French President Emmanuel Macron speaks during a media conference at an EU summit in Brussels, Oct. 18, 2019.

"I think we should stick to the October 31 deadline," French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday. "I don't indulge in political fiction so I'm not going to imagine a scenario where the British parliament votes this way or that way but I don't think that any new extension should be agreed to. I think we now need to finish these negotiations and move onto the negotiations about the future relationship and finish them too."

Even if the Withdrawal Agreement is passed, there are hurdles ahead, says Joelle Grogan, an EU law expert at Middlesex University.

"We need an Act of Parliament to make that law in the UK. We could see a lot of amendments to that act, maybe requiring something for example like another referendum."

That might not be wholly welcomed in Brussels.

"The levels of polarization (in Britain) have increased so much over the past three years that I think a narrow "remain" victory wouldn't solve those questions at all. And what it would mean for the EU would be that the UK would become an incredibly difficult member state, politically the governments would not be able to agree to any further EU integration," says Larissa Brunner, a political analyst at the European Policy Center in Brussels.

With Boris Johnson gone, the Brussels summit of EU leaders Friday moved on to other issues, including the war in Syria and the accession of North Macedonia into the EU.

In Europe, for some, there is Brexit fatigue, and a hope that both sides can move on after more than three years of uncertainty.

Zimbabwe Media Portifolio Committee chairperson Prince Dubeko Sibanda

Zimbabwe’s parliament wrapped up its nationwide gathering of public opinion on the Zimbabwe Media Commission Bill, in Harare, Friday, with a commitment to factor in suggestions that would make the bill more compliant as it relates to freedom of expression and the media, as guaranteed by the Constitution.

The chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Information, Prince Dubeko Sibanda, told attendants to the public hearing that Permanent Secretary of Information, Nick Mangwana, assured him that the bill would be amended to reflect public opinion shared during the hearings.

Sibanda also said specific amendments would address the powers of the minister of information, and the issue of co-regulation, which he said the Parliamentary Legal Committee realized were unconstitutional.

“The Committee realized that there are some clauses in the Bill that violate the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” said Sibanda, referring to some of clauses that pertain to the powers of the information minister with regards the appointment of the executive secretary and Commission staff members, regulations and other areas.

Sibanda said he would convene another meeting with all the relevant stakeholders to review the changes before the Bill was tabled before parliament, for debate.

On the turn out by the public to the hearings that were held this week in Gweru, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Mutare and Harare, Sibanda said he was pleased by the attendance, and also show of interest in the laws regulating the freedom and publication of information.

“They (the public) expressed their wishes, and they were heard. What they want to see happen is very clear,” said Sibanda, expounding on the public’s demand that the Commission that reports to parliament should be independently governed, and that the police should not be involved in matters pertaining to the Commission.

Despite Sibanda’s assurances that public contributions will be included into the final Bill, many who attended the hearings, like Chris Mhike, a journalist and a lawyer, remained skeptical.

“What we see being published in the government gazette and what is taken to parliament, doesn’t include the complains or other concerns raised by the ordinary people,” said Mhike, adding that, “we want this whole process (public hearing) which gives people the opportunity to speak – to be significant. What people say must be included in the final Bill passed by parliament.”

Director of the Voluntary Media Council of Zimbabwe, Loughty Dube, was also skeptical of the government’s promises to include public opinion views in the final Bill, saying past inputs were largely ignored, despite assurances by ministry officials.

“We want to see if the final Bill will include all this (public input), because we have been lied to for a long time, and this is what we now want to see,” said Dube.

Aside from what will be included in the final Bill, other attendants at the hearing raised concern about the leadership of the Zimbabwe Media Commission itself. Philbert Kufainyore said commissioners should be thoroughly vetted to ensure that no members of the army or police are included.

“My plea is that when this Commission is set up, it must look into the background (of candidates), to ensure that is not allowing in former members of the military, police or CIO (Central Intelligence Office) in the Commission,” said Kufainyore.

On who can or cannot be a member of the Commission, Sibanda said the Committee would consult lawyers to find out whether former members of the army or police are ineligible for consideration as commissioners.

Meanwhile, the Committee will compile a report on the outcome of the public meetings and submit that to parliament for a hearing. Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa is expected to include the public’s views in the Bill before it is passed into law.

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