Daily News Roundup

March 12, 2019

Tuesday, March 12

A last ditch attempt by UK Prime Minister Theresa May to get a workable Brexit agreement with the European Union may have succeeded.

Mrs May said today she had clinched legally binding Brexit assurances from the EU which she hoped would win over rebellious British MPs who had threatened to vote down her divorce deal again.

Brexiteers in Mrs May’s party had accused her of surrendering to the EU, and it was not clear if the assurances she agreed to would be enough to win over the 116 additional MPs she needed to turn around the crushing defeat her deal, suffered in January.

A joint legally binding instrument on the Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol on Northern Ireland confirming the EU could not try to “trap” the United Kingdom in the so-called Irish backstop indefinitely was a key sticking point, she conceded.

“The deal that MPs voted on in January was not strong enough in making that clear and legally binding changes were needed to set that right,” she said.

“Today, we have agreed to them. First, a joint instrument with comparable legal weight to the withdrawal agreement will guarantee that the EU cannot act with the intent of applying the backstop indefinitely.

“Second, the UK and the EU have made a joint statement in relation to the political declaration. It sets out a number of commitments to enhance and expedite the process of negotiating and bringing into force the future relationship.

“Third… the United Kingdom Government will make a unilateral declaration that if the backstop comes into use and discussions on our future relationship break down… there would be nothing to prevent the UK instigating measures that would ultimately apply the backstop.”

The backstop, an emergency fix aimed at avoiding controls on the sensitive border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, was the most contentious part of the deal Mrs May agreed to in November.

Many British MPs object to the backstop on the grounds that it could leave Britain subject to EU rules indefinitely or cleave Northern Ireland away from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Mrs May said the agreement made a legal commitment that the UK and the EU would begin work immediately to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by the end of December 2020.

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At least 21 United Nations staff along with a prize winning author and a long list of public servants from around the world were among the 157 people killed in the crash of an Ethiopian airline on Sunday.

Kenya lost the most people (32) in the crash minutes after take-off from Addis Ababa for a flight to Nairobi.

But there was one lucky “survivor”….an Athens businessman who was not allowed on the flight despite arguing with ground staff who said he was too late to board.

“I saw the last passengers going through, but the gate had already closed,” Antonis Mavropoulos told Greece’s private Skai Television, speaking via Skype from Nairobi.

“I complained, in the usual way when that kind of thing happens. But they were very kind and placed me on another flight.”

Mr Mavropoulos, who runs a recycling company and lives in Athens, was travelling to Kenya to attend an environmental conference and changed planes in Addis Ababa.

“I’m slowly coming to terms with what happened and how close it came,” he said in the interview on Monday.

“On the other hand, I’m also very upset — I’m shattered — for those who were lost.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said the world was “united in grief”

Speaking at an environment summit where many passengers were due to arrive, he paid homage to those lives lost.

“They all had one thing in common — a spirit to serve the people of the world and to make it a better place for us all,” he said.

The dead included Joanna Toole, a British woman working as a fisheries consultant for the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, and Victor Tsang, a Hong Kong native who worked in Nairobi for the UNEP.

Antonis Mavropoulos
Joanna Toole

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Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi, who was detained in Thailand while on his honeymoon, has become an Australian citizen in a ceremony at Melbourne.

The 25-year-old returned to Melbourne last month after a much-publicised stint in a Bangkok jail, after his birth country Bahrain pursued his extradition over allegations he vandalised a police station before seeking asylum in Australia.

After passing his citizenship test with flying colours, the star defender was formally recognised as an Australian during a ceremony at Federation Square on today news agencies reported.

“I’m an Aussie now,” he told reporters.

“I feel safe,” he said, adding Bahrain could no longer chase him.

Former Socceroo captain and campaigner Craig Foster attended the ceremony, as did Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

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