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Brexit: No change to backstop, Ireland insists

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Simon CoveneyImage copyright
EPA

Image caption

Simon Coveney told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the EU would not ratify a Brexit deal without a backstop

The backstop element of the Brexit plan is “not going to change”, Ireland’s deputy prime minister has said.

The proposal – aimed at preventing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland – played a major part in Theresa May’s deal being voted down by an historic margin last week.

But Simon Coveney told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that the EU would not ratify a deal without it.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the comments a “negotiating position”.

The UK is set to leave the EU on 29 March, with or without a deal. If a hard border comes about, people and goods passing between Ireland and the UK will need to be checked.

Meanwhile, a leaked diplomatic note seen by the Guardian claims that the president of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has told Mrs May that to revisit the backstop issue she would need to agree a permanent customs union with the EU.

A customs union would mean that no tariffs would be put on goods travelling between the UK and the 27 member states of the EU, but that the UK could not negotiate its own trade agreements with other countries.

The comments come ahead of a crunch week in Parliament. Mrs May will return to the Commons on Tuesday for a vote on her deal, which includes the withdrawal agreement – the so-called “divorce deal” on how the UK leaves the EU – and the political declaration – a statement on the future relationship.

It was voted down by 432 votes to 202 votes last week, with hard line Brexiteers in her own party and members of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – on whom Mrs May relies for votes in Parliament – citing the backstop as their main reason for voting against it.

A number of MPs have been tabling amendments in a bid to force the government to change direction.

One amendment, put forward by Labour’s Yvette Cooper, seeks to introduce a bill that would allow the government to extend Article 50 – the mechanism by which the UK leaves the EU – by up to nine months in order to get a deal agreed in Westminster.

Image caption

Yvette Cooper has the support of a number of MPs, including Conservative Remainers

Also appearing on Andrew Marr, Ms Cooper said she was not seeking to “block Brexit” and said the bill would be amendable – meaning MPs could vote on how long any extension would be.

She appealed for the support of the prime minister and MPs, as well as for the backing of her own party leader Jeremy Corbyn, saying: “We can’t keep waiting for other people to sort this out.”

“We can’t carry on with a kind of game of chicken,” she said.

“In the end, someone has to take some responsibility and say, ‘if the prime minister runs out of time, she may need some more time’.

“That is not about blocking Brexit, that is about being responsible and making sure you can get a Brexit deal.”

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The UK is allowed to scrap Article 50 altogether – and halt Brexit – but to extend it, it would need the approval of the EU.

Mr Coveney said Ireland “won’t be an obstacle” if the UK wanted to go down the route of extending Article 50, adding: “Ireland wants to help in this process”.

“Britain and Ireland are two islands next to each other,” he said. “We have to work out these things together and stop talking about games of chicken.”

But Mr Hancock said delaying Brexit would not help solve the arguments between MPs.

“You can’t just vote for delay,” he said. “You’ve got to vote positively for a deal”.

‘The backstop is a compromise’

Other amendments being put forward ahead of Tuesday’s vote include a plan for putting a time limit on the backstop and another for scrapping it altogether.

These are in answer to critics who dislike the backstop because they believe it keeps the UK too closely aligned to the EU and fear that it could become permanent.

However, Mr Coveney said: “The European Parliament will not ratify a Withdrawal Agreement that doesn’t have a backstop in it. It’s as simple as that.

“The backstop is already a compromise. It is a series of compromises. It was designed around British red lines.”

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionReality Check unpacks the basics of the backstop.

Rows over ‘no deal’ stance

Across Sunday’s newspapers and political TV programmes, politicians clashed over whether leaving the EU without a deal should remain an option for the government or not.

Leader of the House Andrea Leadsom wrote in the Sunday Times that trying to rule out a no deal was a “thinly veiled attempt to stop Brexit”.

But despite his colleague’s words, defence minister Tobias Ellwood wrote: “It is simply wrong for government and business to invest any more time and money in a no deal outcome that will make us poorer, weaker and smaller in the eyes of the world.

“It is now time to rule out the very possibility of no deal.”

Mr Ellwood also said members of his own party seeking to “crash out” without a deal “risk inflaming a dangerous battle for the soul of the Conservative Party” – saying it could determine the outcome of the next election.

But Education Secretary Damian Hinds told Sky News no deal needed to remain on the table, although it would “not be a good outcome”.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionWhat happens in the event of no deal?

In other developments, the government is going to consult Parliament on whether to work extra hours and lose their February half-term break in order to get Brexit delivered by 29 March.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said the government’s demand was a way of Mrs May sending a signal to MPs that she intends to stick to the planned March departure.

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Riot police squads intervene as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash in Montreal

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People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.


People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

  • Violence
    between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Montreal’s
    city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
    heightened and clashes broke out.
  • Israeli
    strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
    toll in almost a week of clashes.

Montreal
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
Montreal.

The
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.

Israeli
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.

Speaking
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.

While
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.

Earlier
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

‘Protesting is a right’

Although
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

The
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

The
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.

Following
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.

She said:

Montreal is a city of peace.

Several
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.

“Terrorist
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.

Pro-Palestinian
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.


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Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do

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“How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person’s life?” asks the BBC.

“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

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Sandpapergate will haunt Australia cricket forever: ex-bowling coach

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Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach - Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach – Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach David Saker said on Monday.

Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft suggesting that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.

Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.

While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.

“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.

However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.

Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.

No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.

“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.

Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.

“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”

In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.

Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”

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Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned Miss Universe

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Miss Universe Andrea Meza


Miss Universe Andrea Meza

UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 IS ANDREA MEZA FROM MEXICO:


UPDATE:

THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 5:

1. Mexico

2. India

3. Brazil

4. Dominican Republic

5. Peru


UPDATE:

HERE ARE THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 10 CONTESTANTS:

1. Jamaica 

2. Dominican Republic 

3. India

4. Peru 

5. Australia 

6. Puerto Rico

7. Thailand

8. Costa Rica

9. Mexico

10. Brazil


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21 IN SWIMWEAR:


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21: 

1. Columbia

2. Peru 

3. Australia 

4. France

5. Myanmar

6. Jamaica 

7. Mexico 

8. Dominican Republic 

9. USA

10. Indonesia 

11. Argentina 

12. India

13. Curaçao

14. Puerto Rico

15. Phillipines 

16. Brazil

17. Great Britain

18. Nicaragua

19. Thailand 

20. Costa Rica

21. Vietnam


 UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE SOUTH AFRICA NATASHA JOUBERT WALKS THE STAGE AT MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021:


74 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Universe on 16 May in Hollywood, Florida. 

The Miss Universe pageant takes place on 16 May in the US (02:00 to 05:00 on 17 May SA time). The show will be broadcast live on 1 Magic (DStv Channel 103) with a repeat at 21:30. 

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor at the end of the event.

Representing South Africa is Natasha Joubert, and South Africans are hoping for the “magic double” – back-to-back consecutive wins, which has only happened once before in the pageant’s history.

Natasha wowed crowds at the national costume competition last week and on Friday impressed during the preliminary round

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Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe 2021

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By AFP Time of article published 16m ago

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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.

Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.

Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.

Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.

Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”

Natasha Joubert, Miss Universe South Africa 2020 competes on stage in Ema Savahl swimwear during the MISS UNIVERSE® Preliminary Competition.

She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.

Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.

Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.

The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”

The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.

In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.

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