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British opposition raises prospect of second Brexit referendum

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Britain’s main opposition Labour Party has said it could support a second Brexit referendum as the European Union opened the door to postponing the country’s exit from the bloc beyond the March 29 deadline.

Britain remains as divided as ever over Brexit, which a narrow majority of voters backed in a June 2016 referendum and speculation that London will ask for more time to negotiate its withdrawal has gathered steam in recent days.

British Prime Minister Theresa May suggested Sunday that parliament may not be able to vote on her Brexit deal until March 12, just 17 days before Britain leaves the EU, provoking alarm at home.

European Council President Donald Tusk said he had discussed the “legal and procedural context of a potential extension” when he met May on Sunday on the sidelines of an EU-Arab summit in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh.

“I believe in the situation we are in, an extension would be a rational solution but Prime Minister May still believes she’s able to avoid this scenario,” Tusk told a closing summit press conference.

The EU has been watching with growing concern the possibility that Britain will crash out of the bloc without a deal, risking chaos on both sides of the Channel.

Speculation is mounting that lawmakers will in a series of votes this week move to delay Britain’s withdrawal to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

The opposition Labour Party on Monday raised the pressure, saying it would put forward its own plan for Brexit, which calls for Britain to stay in the EU customs union, as part of those votes.

Labour then said if its plan was rejected, it would lend its support to an amendment on holding a second referendum on EU membership — without specifying a date.

“We are committed to… putting forward or supporting an amendment in favour of a public vote to prevent a damaging Tory Brexit being forced on the country,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement.

Corbyn, a lifelong eurosceptic who supports Brexit, has been highly ambiguous throughout the negotiations even though many of his MPs support a second referendum.

The Times described Corbyn’s decision “a significant moment” but added that much would depend on the details of the new policy.

“A second referendum risks deepening the divisions in what is already a deeply divided country. It would prolong Brexit uncertainty for much of the rest of the year. And whatever the outcome, it would not settle the troubled question of Britain’s relationship with the EU,” it said in an editorial.

On currency markets, sterling rose further on speculation that May could push back the March 29 deadline in a bid to avert a painful no-deal divorce.

Adding to her woes, the Daily Mail reported that a group of 23 dissidents met secretly to discuss how to stop Britain leaving the EU without an agreement, with as many as 15 said to be ready to resign.

Taking a united stand, the EU and its remaining 27 countries have repeatedly rebuffed May’s efforts to reopen the Brexit deal struck with her government in November.

Since British lawmakers overwhelmingly rejected her withdrawal deal last month, the Conservative prime minister has sought to address their concerns about the text’s so-called “backstop” arrangement.

London wants the “backstop” — the clause binding Northern Ireland into the EU customs union if a new deal to keep the Irish border open is not found — to be time-limited or to be allowed to unilaterally end it.

The EU opposes any changes to an arrangement designed to keep the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland flowing. It also sees the “backstop” as an insurance policy for the peace process in the UK province of Northern Ireland.

Brussels however is not budging, though it is offering political reassurances.

Tusk said he told May that “no matter which scenario, all 27 (EU countries) will show maximum understanding and goodwill”.

During a press conference Monday in Sharm El-Sheikh, May said she believes she can still deliver Brexit on time.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm leading the Brexit negotiations, is still working on the assumption that Britain will leave the bloc on March 29, commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told reporters earlier in Brussels.

She recalled that Britain would first have to request an extension and the remaining 27 EU countries would have to agree to it unanimously.

May’s negotiating team was expected to continue its talks in Brussels on Tuesday.

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#TrumpKimSummit: ‘If I was not ready to denuclearize, I wouldn’t be here’

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Hanoi – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was asked Thursday if he was ready to denuclearize and he responded through an interpreter: “If I was not ready, I wouldn’t be here.”

Kim’s remark prompted Trump to add, “That might be the best answer you’ve ever heard.”

When pressed during a late-morning media briefing if he was willing to take concrete steps to give up his nuclear weapons programme, Kim said: “That’s what we are discussing right now.”

The two leaders, meeting in Hanoi, also said they would be open to the idea of setting up a liaison office in each other’s country, in a further sign of warming ties between the historical adversaries.

“That is something that is welcomeable,” Kim said.

Trump said the idea of inching the countries toward more formal relations through an incremental step was “a great thing.”

The president remained upbeat about his negotiations with Kim but cautioned those hoping for a quick resolution: “It doesn’t mean we’re doing it in one day, in one meeting.”

“No matter what happens we’ll ultimately have a deal that’s really good for Chairman Kim and his country … That’s where it’s all leading,” Trump told reporters.

“We’ve had very, very productive discussions. The relationship is as good as it’s ever been – I think better,” Trump said.

Earlier Thursday, as the two leaders kicked off their second day of meetings, Trump said he was in “no rush” to make a deal over North Korean nuclear disarmament.

“Speed is not important to me. What is important is that we get the right deal … I very much appreciate the non-testing,” Trump said, referring to North Korea’s pause in nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests since 2017.

The president, who first met Kim in Singapore in June, becoming the first-ever sitting US president to meet a leader of North Korea, added that he had “great respect for Chairman Kim,” saying, “When you have a good relationship a lot of good things happen.”

Kim also expressed optimism about his negotiations with Trump, saying through an interpreter, “I hope that we can come to a great conclusion and I will do all my best to bring good results.”

“We made a lot of efforts so far and we think now is time to come together in Hanoi and have this wonderful dialogue,” Kim added, during a short press session at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi hotel, where the leaders also met the night before.

The US president reiterated that he thinks North Korea could be “an economic powerhouse” if the two sides reached an agreement over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme.

“With a little bit of help, I think it’s going to be very special,” Trump added.

The two leaders met privately on Wednesday evening for around half an hour in a closed-door session at the colonial-era Metropole before joining a small group of aides and interpreters for dinner.

In between those two events, the leaders offered each other praise, with Kim calling Trump “courageous” for initiating the talks and Trump hailing Kim as “my friend” and describing their relationship as “a good one.”

In their talks on Thursday, Trump was expected to demand that Kim agree to allow inspectors into North Korea’s various nuclear sites or to identify all of his country’s nuclear facilities or to shut them down completely.

Kim was likely to press for sanctions relief or security assurances, including a diminished US military presence on the Korean Peninsula.

Both positions have been long entrenched, with each side thus far unwilling to make the first move.

On Wednesday, Trump repeatedly pointed to Vietnam – the hosting site for the current talks – as a model for North Korea, saying the South-East Asian country “is thriving like few places on earth” after opening up economically.

“North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize,” Trump tweeted.

North Korea’s economic potential is “like almost none other in history,” the president added.

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Uber is now using boats to beat Mumbai’s terrible traffic

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Uber is offering a new way to beat traffic jams in one of the world’s most congested cities — speedboats.

The ride-hailing company launched its Uber Boat service in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, on Sunday. Uber customers can now book boats between three destinations on the city’s waterfront.
Rides start at 5,700 rupees ($80) for a six or eight-seater boat and go up to 9,500 rupees ($132) for larger vessels that can accommodate 10 riders. The company will only accept bookings for an entire boat, not individual seats.
“Uber’s vision is to create a multi-modal platform to better serve riders and the cities we operate in,” Prabhjeet Singh, the company’s head of cities for India, said in a statement.
“With Uber Boat, we will tap the vast potential of the city’s waterways transport system,” he added.
Mumbai is the first city in India — Uber’s biggest market in Asia — to get the boat service. Uber Boat already operates in Croatia and Turkey, and the company has previously offered the service temporarily in cities like Baltimore, Boston, Cairo, Kiev and for the Cannes film festival in France.
The program in Mumbai launched this week on a pilot basis but will be expanded in the coming weeks, a company spokesperson told CNN.

India’s cities are among the most congested in the world. A report by the Boston Consulting Group last year, commissioned by Uber, estimated that Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata lose more than $22 billion a year because of traffic jams. It takes commuters about 1.5 hours longer to travel a given distance than in comparable Asian cities, according to the report.
The Silicon Valley giant isn’t the first company to try and beat Mumbai’s traffic using alternatives to cars. Blade, a helicopter app for the super-rich, announced in December that it would launch its service in the Indian city this year.

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At least 70 die in Bangladesh plastics warehouse fire

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It is reported that the building was full of highly flammable material that was being stored there.It is feared the number of dead could climb further as firefighters continue to search through the wreckage for more victims.

It is feared the number of dead could climb further as firefighters continue to search through the wreckage for more victims.

Mahfuz Riben, from Dhaka Fire Service and Civil Defence, said: “Our teams are working there but many of the recovered bodies are beyond recognition.

“Our people are using body bags to send them to the hospital morgue, this is a very difficult situation.”At least 50 people were taken to hospital, some in a critical condition.

Samanta Lal Sen, head of a burns unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital, said at least nine of the critically injured people were being treated in his unit.

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