SHARM EL SHEIKH: Britain’s main opposition Labour Party has said it could support a second Brexit referendum as the European Union opened the door to postponing the country’s exit from the bloc beyond the March 29 deadline.
Britain remains as divided as ever over Brexit, which a narrow majority of voters backed in a June 2016 referendum and speculation that London will ask for more time to negotiate its withdrawal has gathered steam in recent days.
British Prime Minister Theresa May suggested Sunday that parliament may not be able to vote on her Brexit deal until March 12, just 17 days before Britain leaves the EU, provoking alarm at home.
European Council President Donald Tusk said he had discussed the “legal and procedural context of a potential extension” when he met May on Sunday on the sidelines of an EU-Arab summit in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh.
“I believe in the situation we are in, an extension would be a rational solution but Prime Minister May still believes she’s able to avoid this scenario,” Tusk told a closing summit press conference.
The EU has been watching with growing concern the possibility that Britain will crash out of the bloc without a deal, risking chaos on both sides of the Channel.
Speculation is mounting that lawmakers will in a series of votes this week move to delay Britain’s withdrawal to avoid a no-deal Brexit.
The opposition Labour Party on Monday raised the pressure, saying it would put forward its own plan for Brexit, which calls for Britain to stay in the EU customs union, as part of those votes.
Labour then said if its plan was rejected, it would lend its support to an amendment on holding a second referendum on EU membership — without specifying a date.
“We are committed to… putting forward or supporting an amendment in favour of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement.
Trudeau’s Tory rival pledges balanced budget in 5 years
OTTAWA: Canada’s Conservative leader and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s main rival in upcoming elections pledged Friday to balance the government’s budget within five years, backtracking on a previous target.
An average of several recent polls gives the Tories a six percentage point lead over the Liberals ahead of the October ballot.
Andrew Scheer previously vowed that balancing the budget could be done within two years, but now claims “Trudeau has made an even bigger mess of the budget than I thought possible.
“And he has made the job of cleaning it up that much more difficult,” he said in a speech to the Canadian Club in Vancouver.
Canada’s economy surged after the Liberals took office in 2015 and unleashed a massive stimulus. But growth is forecast to slow this year.
Finance Minister Bill Morneau in his March budget pointed to 900,000 new jobs created since 2015 and the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years.
The government’s fiscal deficit, however, is projected to balloon to Can$19.8 billion (US$14.7 billion) — after Trudeau abandoned his 2015 pledge to run a few small deficits and return to balance this year.
Still, Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio is lower than its G7 counterparts and is expected to fall over the coming years from the current 30.7 percent.
Scheer said, “even the most optimistic projections don’t have the Liberals balancing the budget for 20 more years.”
“But if Canadians elect a Conservative government this fall, we will balance the budget in about a quarter of that time,” he said.
$8.1b arms sales to ‘deter Iranian aggression’
WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the US administration was bypassing Congress to sell $8.1 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan to “deter Iranian aggression.”
“These sales will support our allies, enhance Middle East stability and help these nations to deter and defend themselves from the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pompeo said in a statement, hours after a senator announced the sale and sharply criticized it.
Canada unveils air passenger bill of rights
OTTAWA: Airline passengers in Canada will soon be eligible for significant compensation for delayed flights or lost baggage under regulations announced Friday by Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.
The measures follow a rising number of complaints about being stuck on the tarmac for hours, musical instruments being broken in transit and lost baggage.
“Our goal was to provide a world-leading approach to air passenger rights that would be predictable and fair for passengers while ensuring our air carriers remain strong and competitive,” Garneau said.
“These new regulations achieve that balance and will give air travelers the rights and treatment they pay for and deserve.”
Starting July 15, airlines will be required to disembark passengers after three hours on the tarmac if there is no prospect of taking off soon.
They would also need to compensate passengers bumped from overbooked flights up to Can$2,400 (US$1,800) and up to Can$2,100 for lost luggage.
As of December 15, additional measures will require airlines to pay passengers up to Can$1,000 for flight delays and cancellations, provide food, drink and accommodations, and rebook them on new flights — using competing airlines if necessary.
They would also have to seat children near a parent at no extra charge and develop new standards for transporting musical instruments.
The latter was in response to travelling musicians complaining on social media about broken guitars and other instruments during flights.
The rules apply to flights to, from and within Canada.
According to Canada’s government statistics agency, there are an average of 5.5 million take-offs and landings at Canada’s 91 airports each year.
Due to its vast geography, air transportation is crucial for connecting parts of the country. A flight from easternmost to westernmost Canada takes about eight hours.