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U.K. government faces no-confidence vote after Brexit defeat

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Danica Kirka and Jill Lawless, The Associated Press


Published Wednesday, January 16, 2019 4:17AM EST


Last Updated Wednesday, January 16, 2019 6:29AM EST

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May faces a no-confidence vote Wednesday, a day after Parliament rejected her Brexit deal by a historic margin.

May is battling to save her job after staking her political reputation on a last-ditch effort to win support for the divorce agreement she negotiated with the European Union over the last two years. Though defeat was widely expected, the scale of the rout — 432-202 — was devastating for May’s leadership.

Immediately after the vote, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn tabled a no-confidence motion, saying it would give Parliament a chance to give its verdict “on the sheer incompetence of this government.”

Still, most analysts predict May will survive because lawmakers from her Conservative Party are unlikely to vote against her, and the Democratic Unionist Party, which supports the government, has said it will continue to back the prime minister. If the government were to lose, it would have 14 days to overturn the result or face a national election.

After the biggest defeat for any British government in well over a century, May promised to consult with senior lawmakers on future moves, but gave little indication of what she plans to do next. Parliament has given the government until Monday to come up with a new plan for leaving the EU.

“The House has spoken and the government will listen,” May said after the vote, which leaves her Brexit plan on life support just 10 weeks before Britain is due to leave the bloc on March 29.

May faces a stark choice: Steer the country toward an abrupt break without a deal on future relations with the EU, or try to nudge it toward a softer departure. Meanwhile, lawmakers from both government and opposition parties are trying to wrest control of the Brexit process from a paralyzed government, so that lawmakers can direct planning for Britain’s departure from the EU.

But with no clear majority in Parliament for any single alternative, there is a growing chance that Britain may seek to postpone its departure date while politicians work on a new plan — or even hand the decision back to voters in a new referendum on EU membership.

Political analyst Anand Menon, from UK in a Changing Europe, said history is being made week after week in the Brexit saga, with government being held in contempt even as May soldiers on in Downing Street.

“She seems content with bringing something back to Parliament to vote on again,” Menon said. “The thing about Theresa May is that nothing seems to phase her. She just keeps on going.”

European leaders are now preparing for the worst — even though German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was still time for further talks. She told reporters in Berlin that “we are now waiting to see what the British prime minister proposes.”

But her measured remarks contrasted with the blunt message from French President Emmanuel Macron, who told Britons to “figure it out yourselves.” He said Britain needed to get realistic about what was possible.

“Good luck to the representatives of the nation who have to implement something that doesn’t exist,” Macron said.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the bloc is stepping up preparations for a chaotic “no-deal” departure after Parliament’s actions left the bloc “fearing more than ever that there is a risk” of a cliff-edge departure.

Economists warn that an abrupt break with the EU could batter the British economy and bring chaotic scenes at borders, ports and airports. Business groups expressed alarm at the prospect of a no-deal exit.

“Every business will feel ‘no-deal’ is hurtling closer,” said Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry. “A new plan is needed immediately.”

But investors have so far shrugged off the rejection of May’s deal. The pound was up 0.1 per cent at $1.2869 in early morning trading in London, and the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.1 per cent at 6,888.

While the uncertainty surrounding Brexit remains elevated, many investors think Tuesday night’s vote makes it less likely Britain will crash out of the bloc with no deal.

James Smith, an economist at ING, says the “calm market response” suggests investors think at the very least that the government will end up having to seek an extension to the Brexit timetable.

May, who postponed a vote on the deal in December to avoid certain defeat, had implored lawmakers to back her deal and deliver on voters’ decision in 2016 to leave the EU.

But the deal was doomed by deep opposition from both sides of the divide over the U.K.’s place in Europe. Pro-Brexit lawmakers say the deal will leave Britain bound indefinitely to EU rules, while pro-EU politicians favour an even closer economic relationship with the bloc.

The most contentious section of the deal was an insurance policy known as the “backstop” designed to prevent the reintroduction of border controls between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state. Assurances from EU leaders that the backstop is intended as a temporary measure of last resort failed to win over many British skeptics.

European Council President Donald Tusk highlighted the quagmire the U.K. had sunk into, and hinted that the best solution might be for Britain not to leave.

“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?” he tweeted.

——

Raf Casert in Strasbourg, France, and Pan Pylas in London, contributed to this report.

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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