Sunday 15 December 2019

The man who broke the Bank of England ruffles feathers with abortion and Brexit roles

Billionaire George Soros is determined to see the Brexit vote reversed
Billionaire George Soros is determined to see the Brexit vote reversed
John Downing

John Downing

George Soros, the former refugee turned world currency speculating phenomenon, made more than £1bn betting against the pound on Black Wednesday in 1992.

At the time the market chaos forced the British government to pull sterling out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

The Hungarian-American is now at the centre of controversy in Britain as his charitable foundation has given £400,000 to a campaign group trying to reverse Brexit and keep the UK in the European Union.

The controversy echoes another row in Ireland last December when the Standards in Public Office commission (SIPO) ordered Amnesty International to return a €137,000 donation from Mr Soros's Open Society Foundation.

Amnesty received the money for its "My Body My Rights" campaign, which is arguing for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment and the introduction of laws providing for abortion.

As the Irish row escalated, Amnesty chief executive Colm O'Gorman said his organisation could not obey the instruction from the public ethics watchdog. Mr O'Gorman argued this instruction breached human rights - so Amnesty could not comply.

For its part, SIPO insisted the donation broke Ireland political financing laws. This legislation bans foreign donors giving money to groups involved in elections, or referendums in Ireland.

Mr Soros last year gave $18bn, understood to be the vast bulk of his personal wealth, to his Open Society Foundation (OSF). Its stated aims include financially supporting civil society groups which are fighting for democracy, against discrimination and promoting education.

The OSF and Mr Soros have been severely criticised, especially by several governments, including those in Russia and his native Hungary. And his Brexit reversal campaign donation has provoked a storm of protest in Britain, especially among those who strongly support an early and total separation from the EU.

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Mr Soros is one of three wealthy figures linked to the campaign group 'Best for Britain', which plans to launch a major campaign at the end of this month aimed at holding a second referendum on Brexit which hopefully would reverse the 52pc to 48pc Brexit result on June 23, 2016.

The political strategy is understood to involve lobbying various MPs and urging them to vote down the final Brexit arrangements. This could lead on to support another referendum, or, a general election fought mainly on the issue of Brexit.

Mr Soros's foundation also enraged President Donald Trump's supporters in the US. He has been accused of supporting protest rallies against the president.

British newspapers reported a document related to the group urging British people to "wake up and assert that Brexit is not a done deal".

The anti-Brexit grouping is also reportedly going to pressurise MPs in 100 constituencies which backed leaving the EU.

There are expected to be rallies and concerts with a big emphasis on the youth vote. Surveys leading into the Brexit vote in June 2016 showed younger voters backed Remain in greater numbers, with older voters opting for Leave.

The strategy is understood to turn on defeating British Prime Minister Theresa May on the Brexit deal next October in the British parliament.

This should trigger either a new referendum or a Brexit-themed general election.

The over-riding hope is for a decisive Remain win in that national vote. Such an outcome would then convince the other EU member states the UK was returning to the bloc on a permanent basis.

'Best for Britain' began its rearguard political efforts in the run in to Mrs May's snap general election last May. It tried to promote cross-party tactical voting in that election in efforts to get more Remain MPs elected to parliament.

The group was founded by businesswoman Gina Miller who took the British government to the Supreme Court over Brexit, and also led the 'Best for Britain's' campaign during the June 2017 general election. The group chairman is Mark Malloch Brown, the former UN deputy secretary general.

Amnesty International has remained defiant in the face of the SIPO instruction to return the Soros foundation money. Mr O'Gorman has said he has no objecion to restriction or regulation of funding for civil society groups such as his. But he insists it must be fair and reasonable and has argued that the current law is neither of those things.

Irish Independent

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