UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been lambasted for evading tricky election issues that have been piling up at No 10 by delaying decisions until after polling day on 12 December, reports The Sun.
They include whether to ban fracking for shale gas, the future of the new HS2 rail network and allowing Chinese telecoms giant Huawei to build the 5G mobile network.
On the contentious fracking issue, Business Secretary Andrea Leadsom is expected to announce a full safety review after a series of small earthquakes at a shale site in Lancashire.
PM Johnson has spoken of “very considerable anxieties that are legitimately being raised about the earthquakes that have followed various fracking attempts in the UK”.
Prior to becoming prime minister, Johnson referred to fracking as “glorious news for humanity” and urged the UK to “leave no stone unturned, or unfracked” in pursuit of shale gas.
But concerns within the Conservative party over fracking have been growing in line with rising public opposition, according to Conservative sources cited by The Guardian, with a party member reportedly saying discussions over the future of the shale industry had been ongoing for months.
The new review is not expected to report back for several months.
Touching upon the UK’s High Speed 2 project, PM Johnson’s official spokesman admitted:
“The independent review is ongoing, providing the Government with clear advice on whether the project should proceed. Findings will not come before Parliament dissolves.”
Boris Johnson’s government announced a review of the controversial railway line in August.
The High Speed 2 project is a railway line designed to link London to cities north of Birmingham, including Manchester and Leeds.
The panel is exploring whether to abandon a plan to develop the track into London’s Euston station and instead end the line at a proposed new hub on the west side of the capital.
HS2 is deeply unpopular with voters along the route, who object to the construction impact and noisy trains.
Advocates of HS2 argue that it’s an essential project not only to speed up connections between London and other cities, but also to expand capacity on the railways.
Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna said:
“HS2 in particular is vital for the economy. Delaying big infrastructure decisions causes further damage to it. There is an element of hypocrisy in a PM that accuses everyone else of dither and delay when he seems to be the master of it.”
A decision on whether the UK provides Chinese telecoms giant Huawei access to Britain’s next-generation 5G network has also been expected from senior Cabinet ministers since the summer, but No10 admitted this week that it too wasn’t imminent.
Britain is seeking to strike a balance between increasing oversight to satisfy the US while allowing Huawei’s continued presence in the British market.
The US refuses to cooperate with Huawei in the construction of its 5G networks citing spying concerns and urging all its allies to follow suit.
While some countries, namely Japan, New Zealand, and Australia, have bowed to US pressure and banned the tech giant from their 5G networks, the British government moved to delay its decision.
A meeting of the National Security Council last week discussed the possibility of allowing Huawei access to the “non-contentious” parts of the network, Bloomberg cited sources in the know on 30 October.
A similar conclusion was reached by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May.
Before being ousted, May had been close to adopting measures which would have allowed carriers to use Huawei in 5G wireless systems while restricting it from some sensitive parts of the network, the person said.
New Election Approved
The UK Parliament is set to be dissolved for an election on Tuesday, 6 November, triggering rules that restrict government communications and decision-making, after the House of Commons approved a snap general election.
MPs voted by 438 votes to 20 on Tuesday, 29 October, to hold a general election on 12 December once the Labour Party accepted that a no deal Brexit had been taken off the table.
Johnson pushed an early poll in a bid to break the deadlock over his proposed terms for taking the country out of the EU, which has been in limbo since last week.
According to Johnson, after the election, a new parliament and government will be able to ratify his Brexit deal.
This could mark an end to the political turmoil that has gripped the UK since the Brexit referendum in June 2016.