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British MP charged with sexual assaults

LONDON: A British MP from the governing Conservative Party was charged yesterday after being accused of sexually assaulting two women. Charlie Elphicke, 48, was charged with three counts of sexual assault, London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement. He is accused of assaulting one woman in 2007 and a second woman twice in 2016. The MP for Dover and Deal, on the southeast tip of England, is due to appear in court in central London on September 6.

“Charlie Elphicke has said from the outset that he denies any wrongdoing,” said his lawyer Ellen Peart. “He will defend himself vigorously and is confident that he will clear his name.” Elphicke was suspended from the Conservatives in November 2017 after allegations against him were referred to police. Prime Minister Theresa May controversially restored him to the Conservative ranks in December 2018, shortly before she faced a vote of no confidence.

The party said on Monday he had now been suspended from the Conservatives again, meaning the government’s majority in parliament’s lower House of Commons is now just two: 320 to 318. The majority-formed by the Conservatives and their Democratic Unionist backers-has dwindled from 13 after the June 2017 general election. The new suspension means Britain’s incoming prime minister-either former London mayor Boris Johnson or Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will take over from May on Wednesday-has even tighter leeway as they attempt to deliver Brexit.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on October 31. Elphicke backed Britain remaining in the EU in the 2016 referendum. A former tax lawyer, Elphicke was first elected to parliament in 2010 and was a government whip from 2015 to 2016, tasked with enforcing voting discipline among Conservative MPs.–AFP

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