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British PM Johnson, ministers to skip Davos summit

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Conservative leader wary of being seen with global business and political elite at World Economic Forum

LONDON Newly re-elected British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not attend next month's Davos summit, nor will he send any ministers, a government source said on Tuesday.

The Conservative leader won a landslide victory in last week's general election, thanks to the support of many working-class voters.

He is apparently wary of being seen spending days with the global business and political elite at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

"Our focus is on delivering for the people, not champagne with billionaires," a source told the Daily Mail tabloid.

A government source confirmed to AFP that neither the Prime Minister nor his ministers would attend.

PROMISE

Mr Johnson campaigned for last week's election on a promise to get Britain out of the European Union on Jan 31 after years of political turmoil.

He has since pledged to lead a "People's government" that addresses voter concerns about public services, social justice and infrastructure.

He attended Davos when he was London mayor.

He told the BBC in 2013 it was a "constellation of egos involving massive mutual orgies of adulation - but it is very important, because you do meet people here who you can encourage to invest".

His predecessor as prime minister, Mrs Theresa May, did not attend this year's event due to the pressures of Brexit but sent her trade minister.

Mr Johnson also toughened his Brexit stance on Tuesday, ruling out any extension of an end-of-2020 deadline to strike a trade deal with the EU.

As lawmakers assembled for the first sitting of Parliament since Mr Johnson's election victory last week, Downing Street said the government would insert a clause into its Withdrawal Agreement Bill - which ratifies the country's departure from the EU - to rule out extending Britain's trade negotiations with the bloc beyond next year.

That could mean Britain leaving without a deal on trade terms at the start of 2021, a prospect that alarms many UK businesses.

"This Parliament is not going to waste the time of the nation in deadlock and division and delay," Mr Johnson told lawmakers as Parliament reconvened after the election.

The 365 Conservative legislators overflowed the benches allotted for them on one side of the Commons chamber.

There was more room on the Labour Party side; the opposition party has 203 seats.

Once all lawmakers - including 140 new arrivals - have been sworn in, the real business will get underway today, when the government announces its legislative plans for the next year in a speech delivered by the Queen.

The Brexit Bill is due to get its first vote in the House of Commons tomorrow.

The divorce Bill will see Britain leave the 28-nation bloc on Jan 31 and enter a transition period until the end of 2020 while a new trade deal with the EU is being negotiated.

During the transition period, Britain will effectively remain a member of the EU, though without voting rights. - AFP, AP

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