- An estimated one million people came out to protest in London on Saturday to show support for another Brexit referendum.
- The protests come after the European Union granted an extension for the Brexit deadline, which gives lawmakers this week to approve the Brexit deal and leave May 22.
- If the UK does not pass a deal, they have until April 12 to decide what to do next.
Protests in London
Hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets of London on Saturday to demand a second Brexit referendum.
The protest, called “Put It To The People,” was organized by the People’s Vote campaign, which is made up of more than 100 grassroots groups that support a second Brexit vote.
Organizers for the protest estimated that a million people turned out, although there is no way to independently confirm the number.
What is known for certain was that there was a wide variety of people who came out to show their support for a second vote.
British citizens from all over the country came to London to join the protest, and British MPs from all across the political spectrum also attended.
The protest was not limited to British citizens. People from other European Union (EU) countries flew in to join the protest, including from Italy and Ireland.
Brexit Deadline Extended
The protest comes after EU leaders and Prime Minister Theresa May agreed on Thursday to extend the Brexit deadline.
The original deadline for Britain to leave the EU was March 29, and now under the current extension the UK will leave on May 22 if Parliament passes May’s Brexit deal.
That might seem like a simple extension, but there are a lot of different ways this can go. Now, the UK essentially has to decide between passing May’s Brexit deal or opening a whole other can of worms.
Lawmakers essentially have this until the end of week to pass May’s plan, if they wish to leave the EU on May 22.
However, May’s Brexit deal is extremely unpopular with both liberals and conservatives, and it has been voted down by Parliament two separate times.
The first time was in January, when MP’s voted against the deal by a 230 vote margin – the biggest defeat in Parliament’s history.
The second time was earlier this month, when the plan was again defeated by a margin of 149 votes.
Alternatives to May’s Brexit Deal
If May’s Brexit deal does not get passed, MPs will have until April 12 to decide what they are going to do instead.
The UK has four different options if they choose not to pass May’s plan.
The first option is to ask the EU for a longer extension. While this would give them more time to negotiate, including potentially negotiating a new deal, extending negotiations even more would require the UK to hold elections for the EU’s European Parliament in May.
Electing new representatives for the UK to the EU’s Parliament would not make much sense if the UK is planning to then leave the EU.
The second option is a no-deal Brexit, which basically means that Parliament would just accept the situation and move forward with Brexit.
However, earlier this month, Parliament debated and voted to reject a no-deal Brexit.
The third option is invoking Article 50, which would cancel Brexit. An online petition supporting this option went viral and got over 5 million, but Theresa May has ruled out invoking Article 50.
The final option is to hold another referendum altogether, which is the driving force for the protests on Saturday. Again, Parliament rejected an amendment for a second referendum during a series of votes earlier this month.
Parliament has strongly opposed these options, which makes it extremely difficult to see a path forward.
The deadline for Brexit is coming fast, and UK lawmakers have still not come up with a plan that even a majority of Parliament can get behind.
Parliament now has this week to decide if they are going to pass Theresa May’s Brexit plan.
If the deal is voted down again, Parliament could hold a series of votes to see where MP’s agree and disagree. That move could reveal if support for a second referendum has shifted at all given the recent changes to the Brexit negotiations.
While Parliament did vote against a second referendum in the past, there is support for it both among MP’s and the British populous.
Back in February, the Labour Party announced that they officially supported a second referendum.
Labour Party leaders are also considering a plan by two of the party’s members where MPs would vote for May’s deal on the condition that it is then put to a public vote. That move would essentially allow the UK to vote on Brexit again without an official referendum.
While that might seem like a good potential option, it still relies on passing May’s unpopular Brexit deal.
Recent polls in the UK suggest that if there were another referendum, Britain could vote to remain in the EU.
A snap poll last week found that nearly two-thirds of respondents support remaining in the EU over Brexiting with May’s current deal.
If the options were remaining or leaving without a deal, remaining would still win.
Almost half of the poll’s respondents said they would support another public vote.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (Al Jazeera) (BBC)
TikTok Faces Billion Dollar Lawsuit in U.K. Over Children’s Data Collection Practices
- A former U.K. Children’s Commissioner is suing TikTok on behalf of a 12-year-old girl over concerns that the company mishandles the data of users under 13.
- The lawsuit alleges that TikTok is “a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network” and doesn’t clearly tell children or parents how much data it collects nor how it will be used.
- The complaint seeks several billion pounds and has transformed into a class-action suit, with millions of children across the U.K. and E.U. eligible to take part.
- TikTok denies all the claims against it, but if the plaintiffs are victorious, then the social media company could be forced to pay thousands of pounds to each affected child.
TikTok Mishandling Data
TikTok is currently facing a serious legal challenge in the United Kingdom over how it uses and collects children’s data.
The claim was filed by former English Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield on behalf of an anonymous 12-year-old girl, although it has since transformed into a class-action lawsuit for children in the U.K. and European Union.
The legal challenge is for several billion pounds, and if successful, could lead to each affected child in the U.K. and E.U. receiving a few thousand pounds.
Longfield claims that TikTok is “a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network” and alleges that it takes children’s phone numbers, videos, exact location, and biometric data without sufficient warning. Particularly concerning for her are children under the age of twelve, who aren’t even supposed to use TikTok but do anyways.
Because of their age, they are supposed to get more legal protections over what’s done with their information, and that age range isn’t a small group of children. Longfield claims that 44% of children 8-12 use TikTok, which would roughly be 3.5 million children in the U.K. alone.
Those stats wouldn’t be too surprising, as according to a 2020 fact sheet published by Ofcom, the U.K.’s communication regulator, 50% of children aged 8 to 15 use TikTok.
Scott & Scoot, the law firm representing the case, added in a statement to the BBC that there is so little transparency for children and parents about what’s being done with the info that it’s “a severe breach of U.K. and EU data protection law.”
While every social media site collects large amounts of user data, Longfield targeted TikTok in particular because it had “excessive” data collection policies. Additionally, Longfield is annoyed at how easy it is for kids under 13 to use TikTok, saying, “Clearly, they know under-13s are using it, companies often say kids put the wrong age on but my view is that isn’t good enough.”
“Knowing kids will do that, you need additional measures to provide more robust verification of children when they are online.”
Not The First Accusation
TikTok denied the accusations and said they “lack merit,” but the claims aren’t without precedent. The company is currently under investigation by the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office for knowingly hosting the data of children under-13 when it merged with Music.ly.
The company was ordered to delete the info and set up an age verification system.
In 2019, the company was hit with a $5.7 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission in the U.S. for mishandling children’s data. It was also fined $155,000 in South Korea over similar issues.
The concerns over children’s data have also prompted many countries to consider various legislation to either enact or expand protections on such data. In the U.K., the Online Safety Bill is being considered by Parliament. Meanwhile, in the U.S., members from both parties in Congress have expressed interest in passing laws to curb social media companies that offer services aimed at people under 16.
Longfield’s lawsuit against TikTok is still in its early stages and what happens next remains to be seen.
See what others are saying: (TechXplore) (Reuters) (BBC)
Netanyahu Loses Key Vote in Knesset, A First Step in Losing Power
- A coalition of anti-Benjamin Netanyahu parties gained control of a key committee that will set the legislative agenda as Israel tries to form a new government.
- The major legislative victory could indicate that the opposition may have a serious chance of forming a majority government when asked to do so by President Reuven Rivlin, which will likely occur in two weeks if Netanyahu fails to do the same.
- The pro- and anti-Netanyahu blocs are all courting a group of right-wing and pro-Arab parties that have yet to declare a side.
- Convincing all of the parties in either bloc to work together is increasingly difficult, as many have refused to do so if certain parties are brought into their coalitions, leaving Israel with the likely prospect of its fifth election in two years.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost a key vote on Monday in the Knesset, Israel’s legislature, that could possibly lead to his fall from power.
Bibi, as he’s known, has managed to hold onto power throughout the last two years despite his coalition lacking enough votes to form and keep a government. The latest round of elections in late March once again saw Netayanhu lacking the votes to form a majority government.
For the last few weeks, Netanyahu has been working to cobble together a coalition government. Two weeks ago, he was finally given a four-week deadline by President Reuven Rivlin.
While Netanyahu retains the title of Prime Minister, he doesn’t get to set the legislative agenda without a majority. The authority to set the agenda is granted to the powerful Arrangements Committee. The Prime Minister received his first major defeat in his efforts to set up a government when the anti-Netanyahu opposition managed to get a majority in the Knesset and gain a majority of the seats on the committee.
Netanyahu made efforts to secure control of the committee, but like his previous attempts to form a government, he relied on the votes from the pro-Arab Islamist Ra’am party, which instead voted with the opposition.
The move isn’t a complete shock, as small parties such as Ra’am and the right-wing Yamina party compose a central role in the situation by consistently playing both sides in an effort to get a better deal and more power.
While Netanyahu has lost control of the Arrangements Committee, it’s unclear if that will translate into a long-term majority for the anti-Netanyahu coalition.
Many of the wildcard players have issues with parties in both coalitions, with some members of each vowing to back out if the others join.
For example, Netanyahu needs Ra’am to be able to form a government, but its status as a pro-Arab Islamist party puts it into conflict with a large pro-Jewish party in Netanyahu’s bloc, which vowed to back out if Ra’am was brought into the coalition. The opposition faces similar issues trying to get some of the right-wing parties on board to work with Ra’am, as well.
Netanyahu has two more weeks to try and form a government. If he can’t, President Rivlin will likely turn to the leaders in the opposition with a similar request. If no one is able to form a government, then Israel will head to its fifth election in two years.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (Metro) (Jerusalem Post)
New Zealand Considers Banning Cigarettes For People Born After 2004
- New Zealand announced a series of proposals that aim to outlaw smoking for the next generation with the hopes of being smoke-free by 2025.
- Among the proposed provisions are plans to gradually increase the legal smoking age and possibly prohibit the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products to anyone born after 2004; effectively banning smoking for that generation.
- Beyond that, the level of nicotine in products will likely be significantly reduced, setting a minimum price for tobacco and heavily restricting where it can be sold.
- The proposals have proven to be popular as one in four New Zealand cancer deaths are tobacco-related, but some have criticized them as government overreach and worry a ban could lead to a bigger and more robust black market.
Smoke Free 2025
New Zealand announced sweeping new proposals on Thursday that would effectively phase out the use of tobacco products, a move that is in line with its hopes to become a smoke-free country by 2025.
Among a number of provisions, the proposals include plans to gradually increase the legal smoking age and bar anyone born after 2004 from buying tobacco products. Such a ban would effectively end tobacco sales after a few decades. The government is also considering significantly reducing the level of nicotine allowed in tobacco products, prohibiting filters, restricting locations where tobacco products can be purchased, and setting a steep minimum price for tobacco.
“We need a new approach.” Associate Health Minister Dr. Ayesha Verral said when announcing the changes on Thursday.
“About 4,500 New Zealanders die every year from tobacco, and we need to make accelerated progress to be able to reach [a Smoke Free 2025]. Business-as-usual without a tobacco control program won’t get us there.”
The proposals received a large welcome from public health organizations and local groups. Shane Kawenata Bradbrook, an advocate for smoke-free Maori communities, told The Guardian that the plan “will begin the final demise of tobacco products in this country.”
The Cancer Society pointed out that these proposals would help combat health inequities in the nation, as tobacco stores were four times more likely to be in low-income neighborhoods, where smoking rates are highest.
Not Without Flaws
The proposals weren’t completely without controversy. There are concerns that a complete ban could bankrupt “dairy” store owners (the equivalent to a U.S. convenience store) who rely on tobacco sales to stay afloat.
There are also concerns that prohibition largely doesn’t work, as has been seen in other nations with goods such as alcohol or marijuana. Many believe a blanket ban on tobacco will increase the incentive to smuggle and sell the products on the black market. The government even acknowledged the issue in a document outlining Thursday’s proposals.
“Evidence indicates that the amount of tobacco products being smuggled into New Zealand has increased substantially in recent years and organised criminal groups are involved in large-scale smuggling,” the document said.
Some are also concerned about how much the government is intervening in people’s lives.
“There’s a philosophical principle about adults being able to make decisions for themselves, within reason,” journalist Alex Braae wrote.
The opposition ACT party also added that lowering nicotine content in tobacco products could lead to smokers smoking more, a particular concern as one-in-four cancer cases in New Zealand are tobacco-related.