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‘Time almost up’, EU warns after British MPs reject Brexit deal | UK News





European Union leaders have warned Britain is running out of time after UK politicians resoundingly rejected Prime Minister Theresa May‘s Brexit agreement, deepening the country’s worst political crisis in decades.

Following the crucial vote on Tuesday in Britain’s lower house of parliament, frustrated officials in Brussels and other European capitals insisted the divorce deal they signed with May’s government in late 2018 remains the best way to avoid a feared “hard Brexit” on March 29.

“We regret the outcome of the vote and urge the UK government to clarify its intentions with respect to its next steps as soon as possible,” said a spokesperson for Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council.

In a post on Twitter, Tusk also suggested the only real solution was for Britain to stay in the EU in the wake of the vote, which saw legislators defeating May’s Brexit divorce deal by a crushing margin of 432 to 202 – the worst defeat in modern UK history.

“If a deal is impossible, and no one wants no deal, then who will finally have the courage to say what the only positive solution is?” Tusk wrote after the vote.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said he regretted the outcome of the vote, but warned that for Britain, “Time is almost up.”

Juncker added that the chances of Britain leaving the bloc without an agreement had increased, referring to a so-called disorderly withdrawal, and that the Commission would continue its no-deal preparations.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, meanwhile, said that the bloc would “remain united” if May were to come seeking more concessions to help her sell the accord to sceptical British MPs and voters.

Uncertainty and ‘Brexit paralysis’ fears in UK as deadline looms (2:57)

‘No renegotiation’

EU leaders have repeatedly said there could be no renegotiation, insisting that the accord they signed with May was the best solution possible because it provided a transition period for businesses to adapt.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted: “I regret the outcome of the Brexit vote in the British lower house in London. In any case there will be no renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement.”

French President Emmanuel Macron said Britain would be the biggest loser if it crashed out of the EU without a deal.

The government of Ireland – the only EU member state with a land border with the UK – said it would now intensify preparations to cope with a “disorderly Brexit”, urged Britain to set out how it proposed moving forward.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who is due to address the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, warned that an abrupt British exit from the EU would be “catastrophic”.

German Finance Minister and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz lamented what he called a “bitter day for Europe”.

“We are well prepared – but a hard Brexit would be the least attractive choice, for the EU and GB (Great Britain),” he said.

Al Jazeera’s David Chater, reporting from Brussels, said there was a “real sense of regret and dismay” among European leaders “at the sheer size of the defeat for May”.

“Juncker has come back to wait for any emergency talks that might be needed but the size of that vote means that it is very unlikely that over the next few days that a Plan B can be sorted out with any real concessions or real compromises.”

With the clock ticking down, several EU leaders said they were actively preparing for a no-deal scenario and called on Britain to come up with alternatives to the rejected withdrawal agreement.

“The UK parliament has said what it doesn’t want,” Guy Verhofstadt, the EU parliament’s Brexit negotiator and a former Belgian prime minister, said on Twitter.

“Now it is time to find out what UK parliamentarians want. In the meantime, the rights of citizens must be safeguarded.”

Northern Ireland prepares for worst-case Brexit scenario (2:36)

Split country

If London does not ratify an accord before March 29, it will leave owing billions in EU dues and with no transitional arrangement to keep trade flowing, which critics say will be economically disastrous.

But May’s Conservatives are split between supporters: hardliners who want an abrupt split and pro-Europeans who want to re-run the 2016 referendum, which saw 52 percent of voters backing Britain’s exit from the EU.

The main opposition Labour Party, meanwhile, is also divided and its leader Jeremy Corbyn is trying to use the crisis to topple May and force a general election.

After Tuesday’s vote, in which more than 100 MPs from within May’s Conservative party were among those rejected her deal, Corbyn promptly called a vote of no confidence in the government, which is scheduled to be held at 19:00 GMT on Wednesday.

Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from London, said Brexit was “raising a question over the whole principle of parliamentary democracy” in an already divided Britain.

“It’s pitting the government against parliament, and parliament against the people. What was initially a binary in-out question has now given rise to a whole kaleidoscope of complex options and uncertain outcomes,” he added.

COUNTING THE COST: What’s the cost of brokering Brexit? (25:16)

Market reaction

Despite the growing uncertainty, the British pound rallied following the parliamentary, standing at 88.71 pence to the euro near 20:35 GMT on Tuesday, compared with 89.57 and 89.15 on Monday night.

Against the US dollar, the pound traded at $1.2860, compared to $1.2704 and $1.2864 the previous night.

Before the vote, some analysts had predicted the pound could plunge with a one-sided defeat, such as 200 votes or more.

But on Tuesday, “the pound was sold pretty significantly before the outcome of the vote”, said Joe Manimbo, senior market analyst at Western Union Business Solutions.

“This is a classic of ‘Buy the rumour, sell the fact’ situation.”

BK Asset Management’s Boris Schlossberg said investors simply did not believe there was a realistic chance of a so-called “hard” Brexit, in which Britain leaves the EU without any deal.

“Markets project beliefs and the underlying belief is that nobody’s going to be committing economic suicide,” he said.

Still, Moody’s, a ratings agency, said in a statement that the outcome of Tuesday’s vote “further extends the period of uncertainty over the UK’s relationship with the EU, a credit negative for many rated issuers.

“This also means that a wide range of outcomes remain possible, from a ‘no-deal’ Brexit in March to a decision to remain indefinitely in the European Union,” it added.


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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic





TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed





On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon





When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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