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UK parliament backs new Irish backstop talks but EU stands firm | UK News

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The UK parliament has authorised Prime Minister Theresa May to reopen negotiations with the European Union to replace a controversial Irish border guarantee within her Brexit deal, in a move that immediately received a flat rejection from Brussels.

Two weeks after resoundingly rejecting the divorce agreement May spent a year and a half negotiating with the bloc, members of parliament on Tuesday backed a proposal intended to send her back to Brussels with a stronger mandate to seek changes that were more likely to win their support.

At the same time, they also passed a non-binding amendment ruling out a potentially chaotic “no-deal” exit. 

But they failed to vote through what is seen as a more important plan – backed by European supporters – that would have tried to force through a Brexit delay if no new deal with the EU emerged by February 26.

With two months left until Britain is due by law to leave the EU – on March 29 – the government is facing increasing calls to secure a deal to allow an orderly exit from the bloc.

“Tonight, a majority of honourable members have said they would support a deal with changes to the backstop,” May, leader of the ruling Conservative Party, said.

“It is now clear that there is a route that can secure a substantial and sustainable majority in the house for leaving the EU with a deal,” May said, adding she would seek “legally binding changes”.

The Irish backstop is an insurance policy that aims to prevent the reintroduction of a hard border between EU member, Ireland, and the British province of Northern Ireland, a crucial part of a 1998 peace deal that ended decades of sectarian violence and preserve frictionless trade.

However, critics said it could bind the UK to the EU’s rules indefinitely.

The proposal put forward by influential Conservative legislator Graham Brady and passed by 317 votes to 301, called for the backstop to be replaced with unspecified “alternative arrangements”, and said parliament would support May’s Brexit deal if such a change was made.

EU says ‘no’

The British pound quickly fell amid fears May would not be able to convince Brussels to reenter negotiations, with Brussels repeatedly saying it does not want to reopen a treaty signed off by the other 27 EU leaders.

Speaking immediately after the vote in parliament, a spokesman for European Council President Donald Tusk said the backstop was part of the withdrawal deal and not up for negotiation, a stance echoed by the Irish government.

“This is a deal which was negotiated with the UK, by the UK, signed off by the UK and the prime minister – and now it looks as though this evening, essentially, there is a row-back and a reneging on the commitments that were made,” said Irish European Affairs minister Helen McEntee.

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office said there could be no renegotiation and demanded a “credible” British proposal.

If the British parliament cannot find a majority for a way forward, the UK will leave the largest global trading bloc without any deal, a scenario that businesses fear will bring chaos to the world’s fifth-biggest economy.

Neither May nor her ministers spelt out what compromises she would seek from the EU, but suggestions include securing a time limit to the backstop or allowing a unilateral exit clause – elements that defeat its purpose, according to the EU.

Hardline pro-Brexit Conservative legislators made clear that their support for May on Tuesday was conditional on her securing a deal they approved of.

EU diplomats played down May’s chances of being able to present a substantially different deal to the British parliament in a decisive vote expected to take place on February 13.

“May will now come back to Brussels and be rebuffed,” one diplomat was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency. “The House of Commons will have to vote again mid-February on plan C. And it will have to be plan A all over again, but with even more pressure of no-deal Brexit looming.”

Al Jazeera’s Nadim Baba, reporting from outside the UK parliament in London, said the possibility of Britain seeking a delay in its upcoming exit from the bloc was gathering pace.

“Tuesday was meant to be about parliament giving us an idea of what kind of a deal it would be prepared to back,” he said.

“But now we know there’ll be weeks more deliberations here, and it’s looking more and more likely that the UK will have to ask the EU for extension to Article 50 – buying itself more time,” he added, referring to the legal notification for leaving the EU which set in motion a two-year process for Brexit.

UK members of parliament on Tuesday rejected two amendments that set out a clear path for parliament to prevent a no-deal exit if May cannot get a deal passed next month.

However, they did later approve a symbolic proposal calling on the government to stop a potentially disorderly no-deal exit, sending a signal that a majority oppose such a departure.

It provided no mechanism for preventing a no-deal Brexit but kept open the option that politicians could try to take the initiative in the “amendable” vote that May has promised for February 14 if she cannot get a deal approved.

UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would meet May to “find a sensible Brexit solution that works for the whole country”, listing changes that his party wanted to see, but that May has shown no sign of supporting.

Sterling, which recently hit a two-and-a-half month high of $1.3218 on hopes that a no-deal Brexit would be avoided, fell about 0.8 percent.

“This isn’t a good night for the country,” Labour legislator Wes Streeting tweeted.

“The prime minister voted against her own deal to go back to Brussels for something she’s said is impossible. MPs voted against ‘no deal’ – but also voted to make ‘no deal’ more likely. We’ll be back for another round of Groundhog Day soon.”

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Tiger-Cats claim victory against the Argos to maintain home record on Labour Day

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The Hamilton Tiger-Cats were at their devastating best against the Toronto Argonauts when the two locked horns on Labour Day at the Tim Hortons Field.

Just like with previous Labour Day fixtures, the Ticats produced a stellar performance with Dane Evans throwing two touchdown passes while Frankie Williams scored on a 67-yard punt return as they claimed a 32-19 victory on Monday. With this vital win, the Ticats extended their Labour Day home record to 7-0.

For players and fans of the Tiger-Cats, games on Labour Day are a lot more special and losing is something the Ticats aren’t used to.

“We know the fans are going to be behind us, we know Toronto is going to be chippy, we know it’s going to be sunny; we know it’s going to be windy. Everything that happened (Monday) we prepared for. There is something extremely special about Tim Hortons Field on Labour Day . . . you can feel it in the air, I can’t put it into words,” said Evans.

After the COVID-19 induced hiatus, the CFL is back in full action and fans can now bet on their favourite teams and just like with online slots Canada, real money can be won. Hamilton (2-2) recorded its second straight win to move into a tie atop the CFL East Division standings with Montreal Alouettes (2-2). Also, the Ticats lead the overall Labour Day series with Toronto 36-13-1.

In the sun-drenched gathering of 15,000—the maximum allowed under Ontario government COVID-19 protocols—the fans loved every minute of this feisty game. After all, this was the Ticats first home game in 659 days, since their 36-16 East Division final win over Edmonton in November 2019.

The contest between the Ticats and Argos was certainly not bereft of emotions, typical of a Labour Day fixture, as it ended with an on-field melee. But the Argos often found themselves on the wrong end of the decisions with several penalty calls and most of the game’s explosive plays.

Hamilton quarterback Evans completed 21-of-29 passing for 248 yards and the two touchdowns while Toronto’s make-shift quarterback Arbuckle completed 18-of-32 attempts for 207 yards. Arbuckle also made a touchdown and two interceptions before eventually being substituted by McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Bethel-Thompson made an eight-yard TD pass to wide receiver Eric Rogers late in the final quarter of the game.

“They got after us a bit . . . we didn’t block, or pass protect well,” said Ryan Dinwiddie, rookie head coach of the Argos in a post-match interview. “They just kicked our butts; we’ve got to come back and be a better team next week.”

The Labour Day contest was the first of four fixtures this year between Toronto and Hamilton. The two teams would face off again on Friday at BMO Field. Afterwards, the Tim Hortons Field will play host to the Argonauts again on Oct. 11 with the regular-season finale scheduled for Nov. 12 in Toronto.

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Roughriders looking to bounce back after Labor Day defeat

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In what an unusual feeling for the Saskatchewan Roughriders, they would now need to dust themselves up after a 23-8 loss to the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in what was a Labor Day Classic showdown in front of a full capacity crowd at Mosaic stadium.

Craig Dickenson, head coach of the Riders, witnessed his team with an unbeaten record get utterly dominated by a more superior team from Winnipeg. Now, he has got a lot of work on his hands getting his team back to winning ways as they visit the Banjo Bowl next.

“We’re going to see what we’re made of now…the jury’s out,” said Dickenson.

Dan Clark, who played centre for the Riders expressed his disappointment in losing what was “the biggest game of the year”.

 “If you lose every other game, you don’t want to lose that one. We’ve just got to take the next step,” said Clark in a report. “There are 12 steps to the Grey Cup left and it’s just about taking that next step and focusing on what Saturday will bring.”

With their first defeat to Winnipeg, the Riders (3-1) now rank second place in the CFL’s West Division, trailing the Bombers by one victory (4-1). However, the Riders will have the chance to even the season series during their trip to Winnipeg this Saturday. With the CFL heating up, fans can now enjoy online sports betting Canada as they look forward to their team’s victory.

The Rider’s offensive line will once again have a busy time dealing with the Blue Bombers’ defence.

Quarterback Cody Fajardo, who played one of the best games of his career two weeks earlier, had quite a stinker against the Bombers in the Labour Day Classic—which is the most anticipated game for Rider fans.

Fajardo had a 59 per cent completion percentage which wasn’t quite indicative of what the actual figure was considering he was at 50 per cent before going on a late drive in the final quarter with the Bombers already becoming laid back just to protect the win.

Fajardo also registered a personal worst when he threw three interceptions, but in all fairness, he was always swarmed by the Bomber’s defence.

While Fajardo has claimed responsibility for the loss and letting his teammates down, many would be curious to see how the team fares in their next game and with less than a week of preparation.

Dickenson is confident that his team would improve during their rematch in the 17th edition of the Banjo Bowl in Winnipeg. The only challenge now would be the loss of home advantage and dealing with the noisy home crowd, he added.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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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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