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Euro MPs back Brexit delay in letter to Britain

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STRASBOURG: More than 100 members of the European Parliament have promised to back a deParliamentxit to allow voters to think again, in a letter to British citizens.
The cross-party group of MEPs wrote as Prime Minister Theresa May faces a probable defeat on Tuesday when British lawmakers vote on the Brexit withdrawal plan.
Speculation is rising that Britain will have to ask Brussels to pause the “Article 50” process that will see it leave Europe on March 29 with or without a deal.
Officials say EU leaders, who signed the withdrawal agreement with May in late November, may agree to extend the deadline to avoid a disruptive breakdown in ties.
A European Court has ruled Britain could unilaterally revoke the decision to launch the two-year withdrawal countdown if it decides to abandon Brexit altogether.
But a delay to allow May time to win over skeptical MPs – or to organize an election or a second referendum — would need to be unanimously agreed by EU leaders.
The European lawmakers, including socialist group leader Udo Bullmann and the Greens’ Philippe Lambert, said they would support such a delay.
“Any British decision to remain in the EU would be warmly welcomed by us,” the signatories said in the letter, which was published in German media on Saturday.
“We have greatly appreciated the enormous impact British politicians and citizens have contributed to the European project,” they said.
“We would miss the extraordinary expertise of our British colleagues… Brexit will weaken all of us. We want you to stay.”
Even if the March 29 deadline date is pushed back, Brexit would complicate planning for the European parliamentary election that begins on May 22.
Britain may have to expect a new batch of MEPs if Brexit hasn’t happened, and EU officials want the process finished before a new parliament sits.
“If the UK is still in the EU during the European elections, then they’ll have to organize a vote,” a European diplomatic source told the Media.
“It would be a strange situation because British MEPs would only sit provisionally for a limited period.”
The diplomat said much would depend on the scale of May’s expected defeat.
It the vote is close, Europe might give May a chance to win over more British MPs — but if she is crushed then Britain could leave on March 29 without a deal.

 

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Asia

King Philippe of Belgium in South Korea

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SEOUL: King Philippe of Belgium, who is on a four-day state visit to South Korea, will inspect the digital office of the Seoul mayor today. 
Mayor Park Won-soon will introduce his smart office in person to the king, the official said. Located on the sixth floor of the city hall, the office has a digital system with a big screen that enables the mayor to see major developments happening in the capital city, including fires, disasters and traffic conditions, at a glance on a real-time basis. The inspection has been arranged at the request of King Philippe, whose sister Princess Astrid is known to have advised him to do so during his state visit that began Monday.
The princess was reportedly impressed by the system during her visit to the office in June 2017. A South Korea-Belgium symposium titled “Improving Quality of Life Through Smart Cities” was also held at the city hall prior to the king’s visit, with more than 160 experts, scholars, and businesspersons from the two nations attending. The Belgian monarch is scheduled to receive honorary citizenship from the Seoul mayor.

 

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Environment

British Shadow Justice Minister on climate change

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BRADFORD: Climate/ecological change is one of the biggest challenges that humanity faces in the modern era. 

This was maintained by the British Shadow Justice Minister Barrister Imran Hussain MP: “With disaster awaiting if we do not make substantial changes to the way that we live our lives, and I was visited recently by school children from Bradford who came to talk to me about their campaign against climate change.

“It’s always positive to see young people get involved in a deeply important issue, and their actions should serve as a wakeup call to the Government that their views must no longer be ignored.

“They are also right to be worried about the kind of planet they will inherit and demand far-reaching action, for if we do not act over the next 12 years, we will forever miss the opportunity to do anything about it.”

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Economy

Greek homes in Airbnb fever

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ATHENS: For Dimitra Dionysopoulou, who lives in the shadow of the Acropolis, there is no mistaking the signs of the Airbnb takeover in her neighborhood.
“Renovation noise, debris disposal bins on every street, and rolling luggage,” said the 50-year-old Athenian mother.
Dionysopoulou has lived her entire life in the middle-class district of Koukaki, now in the midst of a home-sharing frenzy. In 2016, it was named Airbnb’s fifth fastest growing neighborhood globally with an 800-percent jump in activity.
Its selling point? Walking distance from one of the world’s most visited archaeological sites, as well as the state-of-the-art Acropolis museum.
Hundreds of apartments in Koukaki’s aging concrete buildings are now on offer. Rents have doubled and entire families of tenants have been pushed out by cash-hungry owners, said Dionysopoulou.
“Three families I know have already left, and we are currently trying to find a home for a fourth,” she told AFP.
Greece is the eurozone country hardest hit by the 2008 economic crisis, losing around a quarter of its gross domestic product, suffering a surge in unemployment and a severe debt crisis that prompted bailouts from the EU and the IMF as wages stagnated and housing prices fell.
Dionysopoulou is not alone in feeling that the Airbnb phenomenon, as in other major cities, has run amok.
Greek authorities this year belatedly introduced registration and tax rules for Airbnb homeowners.
According to Angelos Skiadas, head of Greece’s tenant association, the home-sharing craze has even spread to far-off Athens suburbs with no tourist interest.
“Homeowners think this is a cure-all that will solve their problems for life. Many use Airbnb as a threat (to raise the rent),” he said.
The shortage is particularly acute on popular islands where visiting civil servants, teachers, and university students are unable to find affordable housing beyond May when the tourist season begins to pick up, Skiadas noted.
“It’s a bubble,” he said, before adding: “Things will balance out.”
Hoteliers also say the situation is out of control. Their trade association commissioned a study from Grant Thornton that found that more than 76,000 properties in Greece were available on home-sharing platforms.
The study argued that declining availability had pushed up rents in central Athens by 9.3 percent in a year, disproportionately affecting poorer segments of the population such as pensioners and single-parent families.
In a sign that Koukaki has reached the saturation point, the government this month moved to halt the construction of a nearly completed nine-floor hotel with a stellar view of the Parthenon.

 

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