- 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)
India Pedestrian Bridge Collapsed 4 Days After Renovations, Killing Over 100 People
The company responsible for the upkeep of the Morbi bridge did not obtain a safety certificate before re-opening.
After seven months of renovations, the Morbi walking bridge in India opened to the public. Four days later, the bridge collapsed, killing more than 130 people.
According to the local government, there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, despite its capacity of 125.
During a campaign event on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the tragedy.
“I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” he stated.
Along with the investigation, the state has launched a criminal complaint against Oreva Group, the company responsible for maintaining the bridge. Oreva Group reopened the bridge after renovations without getting a safety certificate from the government.
In response, Oreva Group spoke to a local news outlet and blamed those on the bridge for its collapse.
“While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” the group claimed.
The state government has offered compensation for the families of the deceased, but that is not enough for some. One father whose wife and two children died in the collapse told VICE he wants answers and accountability.
“Why were so many people given tickets? Who allowed them? Who is answerable?” he asked.
Indian police have arrested nine people including ticketing clerks and security guards for failing to regulate the crowd, according to Reuters.
Xi Jinping Tightens Grip on China by Eliminating Rivals
Despite the staggering power grab, Xi faces geopolitical competition from abroad as well as social and economic instability at home.
Xi Surrounds Himself With Allies
Chinese President Xi Jinping shook up politics over the weekend when he revealed the government’s new leadership, almost exclusively composed of his own hardline loyalists.
Six men — Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi — will form the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top ruling body.
The four new members are all Xi loyalists, pushing out Premier Li Keqiang and the head of China’s top advisory body Wang Yang, two key party figures outside Xi’s inner circle who retired despite being eligible to serve another term.
For the first time in a quarter-century, China’s 24-member Politburo will be made up entirely of men, underlining the exclusion of women from Chinese politics.
An official account of the selection process said that a top criterion for leadership was loyalty to Xi, and rising officials must stay in lockstep with him “in thinking, politics and action.”
Topping off the developments, Xi officially secured an unprecedented third term as leader, something that was only made possible in 2018 when the government abolished term limits on the presidency. The weekend marked China’s greatest consolidation of political power in a single figure in decades.
As the 20th Communist Party Congress came to a close Saturday, China’s former leader Hu Jintao appeared reluctant as he was suddenly and inexplicably escorted from his seat next to Xi out of the Great Hall of the People.
Some commentators have argued that a tightly knit band of yes men may help Xi fend off internal party dissent, but it could ultimately result in poor governance as his subordinates fear giving him bad news.
The Arc of History Bends Toward China
Despite the extreme concentration of political power, China’s Communist Party stares down a gauntlet of challenges both foreign and domestic.
Beijing remains locked in a strategic competition with Washington, which has sought to contain the East Asian rival’s rise as a global superpower, but the past week’s congress may portend a stubbornly defiant China for years to come.
Xi is expected to use his firmly secure position within the party to pursue his agenda in full force — by strengthening Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, expanding China’s economic foothold in developing countries, and achieving self-sufficiency in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.
At home, China’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, with high unemployment, low consumption, and slow economic growth putting pressure on a government that stakes much of its legitimacy on promises to deliver prosperity to the population. Between July and September, the country’s GDP grew by 3.9%, according to official data released Monday, which is above many analysts’ expectations but still far below the state’s target of around 5.5%.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics postponed the data’s publication last week ahead of the 20th party congress, reinforcing concerns that Xi’s leadership will put politics before economics.
Monday’s announcement roiled stock markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunging 6%, as well as the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Composite Index both falling by about 2%.
Beijing has also seen increased political resistance from the population, from anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai to widespread mortgage boycotts over delays from real estate developers.
Last week, a man unfurled two large banners from an overpass in Beijing and called President Xi a “dictator” through a megaphone.
Such small-scale demonstrations are not new, but they took place in the capital just before the congress drew enough attention for photos of the stunt to go viral on social media, where an equally swift censorship campaign stamped out any mention of it.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Elon Musk Walks Back Threat to Cut Ukraine’s Starlink Internet Service
Although the satellites have been invaluable for Ukrainian military operations, outages have left soldiers without communication devices in recent weeks.
Let Them Eat Satellites
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Saturday that his company would continue funding internet service for Ukraine after declaring that he would have no choice but to cut it off the day prior.
“The hell with it,” he tweeted. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the often jocular billionaire was being sarcastic, but in response to another Twitter user he said, “We should still do good deeds.”
SpaceX’s Starlink satellites help the Ukrainian military operate drones, receive intelligence updates and communicate out in the field, which is vital since many regular internet and cellular phone networks have been destroyed by Russia.
At least 20,000 satellite terminals have been donated to Ukraine since the spring, but SpaceX has footed the bill for a small minority of them. According to a letter the company sent to the Pentagon last month, around 85% of the terminals were paid for in part or in full by the United States, Poland, and other entities, who also covered some 30% of the internet connectivity.
SpaceX claimed in the letter that Starlink services for Ukraine would cost over $120 million for the rest of the year and nearly $400 million for the next 12 months.
“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” it said.
The company, therefore, requested that the Pentagon take over funding for the satellite terminals.
Earlier this month, Musk claimed on Twitter that Ukraine’s Starlink services had cost SpaceX $80 million so far.
On Friday, following CNN’s publication of the SpaceX letter, Musk reaffirmed that his company “cannot fund the existing system indefinitely, *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households.”
He added, however, that it was not seeking to recoup past expenses.
On Monday, Politico reported that the Pentagon is considering paying for the Starlink satellite network from a fund that has been used to supply weapons and equipment over the long term, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in the deliberations.
Starlink Leaves Ukraine’s Soldiers Stranded
Ukrainian troops experienced “catastrophic” outages in their Starlink communication devices in recent weeks, according to a Financial Times report earlier this month.
The services reportedly stopped functioning at critical moments, such as when soldiers breached the front lines into Russian-controlled territory or engaged in pitched battles.
“They were acute in the south around the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, but also occurred along the frontline in eastern Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk,” an official told the outlet.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to annex all four regions and held referendums widely considered to be a sham justification for his conquest of the Donbas.
The regions are also the focus of a massive Ukrainian counteroffensive that has sent Russian troops scrambling in recent weeks.
One Starlink donor reportedly believed the outages were a result of SpaceX’s efforts to block Russian forces from misusing Starlink terminals.
As Ukrainian soldiers liberated Russian-occupied territory, the sources said, public announcements of their gains lagged behind, and so did Starlink’s coverage.
Another official told the outlet that connection failures were widespread and led to panicked calls from soldiers to helplines.
Musk responded to the report by tweeting, “As for what’s happening on the battlefield, that’s classified.”