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

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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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Ottawa transit commission hopes to prioritize COVID-19 vaccines for OC Transpo workers

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Ottawa’s transit commission is pushing local and provincial health officials to recognize the role OC Transpo operators have played in keeping the city running during the COVID-19 pandemic, hoping to bump train and bus drivers in the vaccination queue amid a recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting transit workers.

More than 100 OC Transpo staff across the entire organization have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, according to an update at Wednesday morning’s transit commission meeting.

Of those cases, 26 employees are currently recovering from the disease in self-isolation.

OC Transpo has seen a recent jump in COVID-19 cases, with Ottawa city council receiving reports of eight operators testing positive for the virus over a recent eight-day period.

Transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert attempted to find out how many of the total cases are traced to workplace transmission, but OC Transpo boss John Manconi said he’s been advised by medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches that he can’t share that information for privacy reasons.

Transit operators are listed in the second priority group of essential workers as part of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine sequencing plans, but several commissioners speaking Wednesday wanted to get the city’s bus and train drivers bumped higher in the order.

Councillors Riley Brockington and Glen Gower both put forward motions looking to get front-line OC Transpo employees prioritization in vaccine sequencing, but others pointed out that the much-debated public health topic of who gets the vaccine and when is well beyond the scope of the transit commission.

“We are not in a position in transit commission to be decreeing, or making an edict, about what group of essential workers is more at risk than others and should be prioritized. That should be left up to public health experts,” Wright-Gilbert said.

Knoxdale-Merivale Coun. Keith Egli, who also chairs the Ottawa Board of Health, reflected on the board’s four-plus-hour meeting on Monday evening, during which vaccine sequencing and prioritizing essential workers dominated the conversation.

“Vaccine sequencing is obviously a very difficult maze to get through,” he said.

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COVID-19: Ottawa police announce end of 24-7 presence at Ontario-Quebec border

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Less than two days after the Ontario government’s latest COVID-19 restrictions came into effect, calling for non-essential traffic to be stopped at the province’s borders with Quebec and Manitoba, the Ottawa Police Service has announced it is stopping its 24-hour checkpoints.

According to a statement issued by the service Tuesday evening, the around-the-clock border checkpoints were set to end as of 8 p.m. on Tuesday in favour of rotating checkpoints across the city throughout the day until Ontario’s temporary regulations end.

“Since the onset of the border operations, the OPS has been working closely with Ottawa Public Health (OPH) along with local stakeholders and interprovincial stakeholders (the City of Ottawa, the City of Gatineau, the Ontario Provincial Police etc.) to assess any local public health, traffic and safety impacts. The assessment resulted in today’s operational changes,” the statement said.

“The operational changes announced today are designed to better ensure the health and safety of all, to minimize delays and/or hazards for travellers and to ensure essential workers can get to their places of employment on time.”

The statement also said the police service, while working to comply with the provincial order, was focused on education and enforcement actions that “support improved public health outcomes and respect the concerns of our most marginalized and racialized communities”

Officers said they will be conducting daily assessments on border crossings and that there could be further changes.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Solicitor General Sylvia Jones said that the border closures are ultimately subject to the discretion of local police enforcing the regulations.

“Local police services are best positioned to determine the operational deployments necessary to ensure the continued safety of their communities,” the spokesperson said, noting that the order’s regulations still apply to individuals entering the province.

The temporary order restricts Quebec residents from entering Ontario. If prompted, individuals must stop when directed by an enforcement officials and provide their reason for entering the province.

The main exemptions to the restrictions include if the person’s main home is in the province, if they work in Ontario, if they’re transporting goods, if they’re exercising Indigenous or treaty rights, if they need health care or if there’s a basis on compassionate grounds.

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COVID-19 vaccines in Ottawa: Nearly half of all residents in their 60s have at least one dose

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Public Health’s latest COVID-19 vaccination update shows that nearly half of all residents 60 to 69 years old have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, a figure that has all but doubled in the past week.

OPH’s COVID-19 vaccination dashboard shows 58,000 residents 60 to 69 have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, accounting for 49.3 per cent of that age group’s population in Ottawa. Last Wednesday, OPH reported 30,000 residents 60 to 69 had had at least one dose, which was 25.4 per cent.

As age demographics get younger, the population grows larger and the coverage by percentage may appear to grow more slowly, even if clinics are vaccinating greater numbers of people. For example, the latest figures show that 83 per cent of people aged 70 to 79 have had at least one dose. By raw population that’s 60,000 people, only slightly higher than half of all people in their 60s.

Vaccinations are open through the Ontario portal to anyone 60 and older and, this week, the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for administration at pharmacies and primary care clinics to anyone in Ontario 40 and older.

OPH reported a new shipment this week of 25,740 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. To date, Ottawa has received 305,130 doses of COVID-19 vaccines from the provincial government.

The number of eligible residents (i.e. 16 and older) with at least one dose of a vaccine is now up to 28 per cent.

Tuesday was Ottawa’s second-busiest day for vaccinations overall, with the OPH reporting 9,729 shots administered. Last Friday saw 9,887 shots administered in a single day.

QUICK STATS

  • Ottawa residents with at least one dose: 248,668
  • Ottawa residents with two doses: 26,722
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with at least one dose: 28 per cent
  • Percent of eligible population (residents 16 and older) with two doses: 3 per cent
  • Percent of total population with at least one dose: 24 per cent
  • Percent of total population with two doses: 3 per cent

VACCINATION COVERAGE BY AGE FOR OTTAWA RESIDENTS WITH AT LEAST ONE DOSE

  • 10-19: 1.6 per cent (1,804 people)
  • 20-29: 8.3 per cent (13,452 people)
  • 30-39: 9.5 per cent (14,999 people)
  • 40-49: 12.9 per cent (17,350 people)
  • 50-59: 28.8 per cent (40,320 people)
  • 60-69: 49.3 per cent (58,627 people)
  • 70-79: 82.9 per cent (62,808 people)
  • 80-89: 87.5 per cent (29,358 people)
  • 90+: 89.2 per cent (7,893 people)
  • Unknown age: 2,057 people 

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