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British MPs reject no-deal Brexit

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Theresa May
Theresa May (File Photo)

London, March 14: British MPs have decisively rejected the idea of the UK leaving the European Union (EU) without a deal and clearing the way for Brexit to be delayed, inflicting more defeats on the already embattled Prime Minister Theresa May.

After May’s deal was heavily voted down for a second time on Tuesday, she announced a government motion ruling out a no-deal Brexit on March 29 – overturning her longstanding policy of refusing to rule it out, the Guardian reported.

May promised MPs a free vote, but the motion was carefully worded, with the final sentence stating that, “leaving without a deal remains the default in UK and EU law unless this house and the EU ratify an agreement”.

On Wednesday night, the MPs voted by 312 to 308 to support a backbench amendment which struck out that last phrase so as to rule out a no-deal exit altogether.

The vote however, is not binding. Under current law the UK could still leave without a deal on March 29.

In chaotic scenes in Parliament, the government then rescinded its promise of a free vote; and whipped its MPs to vote against the amended motion.

Several cabinet ministers who have warned about the risks of a no-deal Brexit, including Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd, appeared to abstain, but the government still lost the vote, by 321 votes to 278 – a majority of 43.

Also on Wednesday night, the MPs by 374 to 164 to reject a plan to delay the UK’s departure from the EU until May 22, so that there can be what its supporters call a “managed no-deal” Brexit.

After her defeat, May signalled she would gamble one last time on forcing through her Brexit deal, bringing forward a motion on Thursday on delaying the exit.

Without an agreed deal, she said, there would be a “much longer extension” that would require the UK to take part in European parliament elections.

“I do not think that would be the right outcome.”

The MPs will vote again on Thursday on whether to ask the EU for permission to delay the date for departure.

Meanwhile, any request by the UK to delay Brexit must be agreed by Brussels, CNN reported.

EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told Members of the European Parliament on Wednesday that the ball was firmly in London’s court.

“It is UK’s responsibility to tell us what they want for our future relations. That is the question that needs to be posed to which we expect an answer. It will be a priority even before the question of an extension. Negotiations on Article 50 (the mechanism that laid down Britain’s departure date as March 29) are finished,” he said.

“We have agreed a deal with the Prime Minister and the EU is ready to sign it… There are only two ways to leave the EU: with or without a deal. The EU is prepared for both.”

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Several injured in ‘terror shooting’ in Dutch tram

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Utrecht Shooting , Netherlands

Utrecht (Netherlands), March 18: A gunman on Monday opened fire inside a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht injuring several people that police said can be a possible terror attack.

The gunman reportedly fled the scene by car, the police added. They said they were investigating a “possible terrorist motive”, the BBC reported.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said he was “deeply concerned” and cancelled his weekly coalition talks.

The shooting took place around the 24 Oktoberplein junction at about 10.45 a.m. Three helicopters have been despatched.

“A man started shooting wildly,” one eyewitness told Dutch news site NU.nl.

Another witness told Dutch public broadcaster NOS he saw an injured woman with blood on her hands and clothes. “I brought her into my car and helped her,” he said. “When the police arrived, she was unconscious.”

It is unknown how many were injured or how seriously they were hurt.

The area in the west of the city has been cordoned off by authorities. Police have asked people to stay away from the area and schools were closed.

Utrecht’s transport authority said some tram services later resumed running in the city although warned travellers to “take into account additional travel time”.

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FAA’s approval of Boeing 737 Max under probe

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Boeing 737 MAX

Washington, March 18: The US Transportation Department’s Inspector General has opened an investigation into the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) approval of Boeing’s 737 Max planes which were involved in two deadly crash just five months apart, The Wall Street Journal said in a report.

The Journal’s report on Sunday comes a week after the 737 Max planes were grounded for an indefinite period globally following the two deadly accidents involving the aircraft model, CNN reported.

The first accident was the March 10 crash of the Nairobi-bound Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 that took place just six minutes after it took-off from Addis Ababa, killing all 157 people on board.

The second crash occurred last October when a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 – the same type of plane – plunged into the Java Sea minutes into the flight from Jakarta and killed all its 189 people.

The investigation will be focused on an automatic safety system implicated in the October crash, CNN quoted the Journal as saying citing a US government official.

It is unknown if the Ethiopian Airlines crash will play any role in this investigation or not.

The Transportation Department is yet to comment on the development.

Following the probe announcement, the FAA said in a statement, that its “aircraft certification processes are well established and have consistently produced safe aircraft designs”.

Meanwhile, both the crashes, which occurred five months apart, remain under investigation by the Indonesia and Ethiopia governments, with the assistance from the US and Boeing.

The Ethiopian Minister of Transport said on Sunday that preliminary data recovered from the black boxes showed “similarities” between the two accidents.

A preliminary report of the Lion Air crash revealed that the pilots fought with the automatic safety system, known as the manoeuvring characteristics augmentation system (MCAS), for control of the jet.

Meanwhile, Boeing announced on Monday that it was working with the FAA to finalise a software update related to the MCAS system to make the planes safer. The company plans to have the update mandated no later than April, CNN reported.

“We also continue to provide technical assistance at the request of and under the direction of the National Transportation Safety Board, the US Accredited Representative working with Ethiopian investigators,” Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in a statement.

According to Muilenburg, the company “continues to support the investigation, and is working with the authorities to evaluate new information as it becomes available”.

“Safety is our highest priority as we design, build and support our airplanes. As part of our standard practice following any accident, we examine our aircraft design and operation, and when appropriate, institute product updates to further improve safety,” he added.

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Earthquake hits Indonesia

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Earthquake

Indonesia, March 17 ; An earthquake with a magnitude of 5.5 on the Richter scale hit Indonesia’s Lombok region on Sunday.

The quake jolted 4 km SW of Sembalunbumbung, Indonesia at 07:07:27 GMT on Sunday, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 23.61 km, was initially determined to be at 8.4179 degrees south latitude and 116.5195 degrees east longitude.

At least 50 people have been killed by flash floods in Indonesia’s eastern Papua province as rescuers raced to find more victims of the disaster.

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