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British opposition raises prospect of second Brexit referendum

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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.

 

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Anti-Brexit protesters mass in British capital for rally

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LONDON: Hundreds of thousands of pro-Europeans from across Britain were expected to march through London on Saturday calling for another referendum on EU membership with the country mired in political paralysis over Brexit.

Opponents of Britain’s departure from the European Union will gather near Hyde Park from noon (1200 GMT) before converging on Westminster in what organisers are calling the “Put it to the people march”.

Speakers including Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, London Mayor Sadiq Khan and opposition Labour deputy leader Tom Watson will then address the crowds at a mass rally outside parliament.

“Brexit is a complete and utter mess,” Khan said on the eve of the event.

“I’ll be marching on Saturday with people from every part of our country — from every walk of life — to demand that the British people get the final say.”

The protest — set to be one of the largest in the capital in decades — comes after EU leaders this week granted a delay to Brexit, prompting Prime Minister Theresa May to make a renewed bid to win MPs’ backing for her divorce deal.

However she faces daunting odds with lawmakers deadlocked for months over how to implement the 2016 referendum vote to leave, reflecting bitter divisions nationwide.

If she succeeds, Britain — which was staring at a cliff-edge deadline of March 29 for leaving the EU — will depart on May 22 under the terms of the withdrawal agreement the prime minister struck with Brussels last year.

But if lawmakers defeat the accord again, as expected, London must outline a new plan or face a no-deal Brexit as early as April 12 — unless it decides to request another extension and hold European Parliament elections in May.

Any further delay would likely prompt further calls for another referendum as the only way out of the impasse.

 

 

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Middle East

Syria force takes IS bastion, ‘caliphate’ wiped out

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BAGHOUZ: Kurdish-led forces pronounced the death of the Islamic State group’s nearly five-year-old “caliphate” Saturday after flushing out diehard militants from their very last bastion in eastern Syria.

Fighters of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces raised their yellow flag in Baghouz, the remote riverside village where diehard militants of a variety of nationalities made a desperate, dramatic last stand.

The SDF’s victory capped a six-month operation in which it took heavy casualties and will go down as a symbolic date in a war that changed the face of the region and spurred a spate of global terror attacks.

“Syrian Democratic Forces declare total elimination of so-called caliphate and 100 percent territorial defeat of ISIS,” spokesman Mustefa Bali said in a statement, using another acronym for IS.

In Al-Omar, an oil field used as the main SDF staging base for the final phase of the assault, fighters in their best fatigues laid down their weapons and broke into song and dance.

The state proclaimed in mid-2014 by fugitive IS supremo Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi started collapsing in 2017 when parallel offensives in Iraq and Syria wrested back its main hubs Mosul and Raqa.

The nearly five years of fighting against the most brutal militant group in modern history left thousand-year-old cities in ruins and populations homeless.

 

 

 

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Seoul ranks as 7th most expensive city in the world: survey

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SEOUL: South Korea’s capital city, Seoul, ranks as the seventh most expensive city in the world to live in this year, a survey showed Saturday.

The Worldwide Cost of Living (WCL) Survey, conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), measures the prices of more than 150 items in 133 cities across the globe, with the index for New York set as a benchmark of 100.

According to the latest WCL poll, Seoul ranked seventh, on a par with New York, down one notch from the previous survey.

Singapore, Paris and Hong Kong are the joint most expensive cities in the world with an index of 107, followed by Zurich of Switzerland with 106, and its sister Geneva and Japan’s Osaka coming next with 101 each.

Tokyo is 4 percent cheaper than New York and Seoul to live in, while Shanghai is the most expensive city in mainland China, ranking 25th on the global chart with an index of 85.

“Seoul continues to be one of the most expensive cities in the world to top up a shopping basket,” the EIU said in the press release.

 

 

 

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