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UK’s May asks a wary EU to delay Brexit until June 30

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 20:26
LONDON - Exactly 1,000 days after Britain voted to leave the European Union, and nine days before it is scheduled to walk out the door, Prime Minister Theresa May hit the pause button Wednesday, asking the bloc to postpone the U.K.’s departure until June 30. EU leaders, who are exasperated by Britain’s Brexit melodrama, will only grant the extension if May can win the U.K. Parliament’s approval next week for her twice-rejected Brexit deal. Otherwise, the U.K. is facing a chaotic “no-deal” departure from the bloc within days, or a much longer delay that May says she will not allow while she is in power. May, who has spent two and a half years trying to lead Britain out of the EU, said it was “a matter of great personal regret” that she had to seek a delay to Brexit. In a televised statement from 10 Downing St., May said she shared the frustration felt by many Britons who have “had enough” of endless Brexit debates and infighting - though she did not accept a role in causing it. Instead, she blamed Parliament for the deadlock, and warned that if lawmakers did not back her deal it would cause “irreparable damage to public trust.” “It is high time we made a decision,” May said. In a letter to European Council President Donald Tusk, May acknowledged that the Brexit process “clearly will not be completed before 29 March, 2019” - the date fixed in law two years ago for Britain’s departure. May asked to delay Britain’s withdrawal until June 30, and said she would set out her reasons to EU leaders at a summit in Brussels on Thursday. Her longshot plan is to hold a third vote in Parliament on her deal next week, then use the EU-granted extension to pass the legislation needed for an orderly departure from the EU. “As prime minister I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than June 30,” May told the House of Commons - a hint she could quit if Britain is forced to accept a longer pause. Tusk said he thought a short delay to Brexit “will be possible, but it would be conditional on a positive vote on the withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons.” May’s request - and Tusk’s response - leaves Britain and the bloc facing Brexit uncertainty right up to the deadline for departure. Withdrawing without a deal could mean huge disruptions for businesses and U.K. residents, as well as those in the 27 remaining EU countries. “Even if the hope for a final success may seem frail, even illusory, and although Brexit fatigue is increasingly visible and justified, we cannot give up seeking until the very last moment a positive solution,” Tusk said in Brussels. Tusk made clear what other EU leaders have long hinted: The EU is unwilling to give Britain more time unless the government can find a way out of the Brexit impasse. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “if the (EU) Council is to decide on extending the deadline for Britain, then we would like to know: Why, why, why?” French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said a delay could only be granted if May guaranteed that its purpose “is to finalize the ratification of the deal already negotiated.” EU leaders are united in saying that the divorce deal it spent more than a year and a half negotiating with Britain can’t be renegotiated. But the deal has twice been rejected twice by hefty margins in Britain’s Parliament, amid opposition from pro-Brexit and pro-EU lawmakers. May had planned to try again this week to get the agreement approved, until the speaker of the House of Commons ruled that she can’t ask Parliament to vote on the deal again unless it is substantially changed. May told Tusk that despite the ruling “it remains my intention to bring the deal back to the House.” She’s likely to do that next week - within days or hours of Britain’s scheduled departure - by arguing that circumstances have changed and the speaker’s bar on a third vote no longer applied. But she faces a struggle to overturn the huge margins of defeat for her deal in previous votes in January and last week. Tusk did not say whether the EU would be willing to grant a long delay to Brexit if Britain changed course and abandoned May’s deal for a new approach. British opposition politicians, and pro-EU members of May’s Conservative government, have urged a longer extension, saying a delay of just a few months could leave the country once again facing a no-deal Brexit this summer. They want to commit to a close post-Brexit economic relationship with the bloc to ease disruption for businesses and citizens. Opposition Labour Party lawmaker Angela Eagle said May should “stop banging her head against the brick wall of her defeated deal” and seek cross-party support for a new Brexit strategy. But a shift to “soft Brexit” would infuriate the pro-Brexit wing of May’s divided party, and a long delay would require Britain to participate in May 23-26 elections for the European Parliament. May said postponing Brexit beyond June would result in Parliament spending “endless hours contemplating its navel on Brexit.” Any delay that required Britain to take part in European parliamentary elections would be a major headache for the bloc. Britain’s seats already have been allocated to other countries to fill in the May election. Britain believes it would not have to participate if it got a three-month delay, because the newly elected European parliament is not due to convene until July. Some EU officials take a different view and want any extension to end by May 23, the first day of the European elections. The Brexit-fueled political chaos has drawn reactions ranging from sympathy to scorn at home and around the world. On its front page Wednesday, the Brexit-backing Daily Mail newspaper bemoaned the time since the referendum as “1,000 lost days.” Juncker said Britain’s Parliament needed to decide whether it would approve the only deal that is on the table. “If that doesn’t happen, and if Great Britain does not leave at the end of March, then we are, I am sorry to say, in the hands of God,” he said. “And I think even God sometimes reaches a limit to his patience.” ___ Cook reported from Brussels. Raf Casert in Brussels, Samuel Petrequin in Paris, Danica Kirka in London and Geir Moulson and Frank Jordans in Berlin contributed. ___ Follow AP’s full coverage of Brexit at: Jill Lawless And Lorne Cook, The Associated Press

Saskatchewan judge dismisses land use charges against protest group founder

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 20:16
PRINCE ALBERT, Sask. - A judge has dismissed charges against one of the founders of the Indigenous Idle No More protest movement who was accused of living illegally on Saskatchewan park land. Sylvia McAdam and her brother Kurtis were to stand trial for failing to comply with a provincial government order to vacate land in the Zig Zag Bay area near the community of Big River. The Crown has 30 days to appeal the decision. Court heard that Sylvia McAdam was living on the land for two years before she was ordered to leave early in 2017. She argued her family had been at Zig Zag Bay for generations and she had a Treaty right to live on the land. McAdam says the court ruling is a relief. “My family has always lived there,” McAdam said outside court in Prince Albert Wednesday. “For the province to come and create a park there without our consent, in violation of Treaty 6, is problematic.” Her lawyer, Larry Kowalchuk, says the family hopes to work out an agreement with the government for use of the land. McAdam says she hopes to be able to live back on the property some day. “That’s where I grew up,” she said. Idle No More says it was formed in 2012 as a protest against the introduction of a bill by the former Conservative government to change legislation, including the Indian Act, Navigable Waters Protection Act and Environmental Assessment Act. The group argued that the changes diminished the rights and authority of Indigenous communities while making it easier for governments and businesses to push through projects without strict environmental assessment. (CKBI, The Canadian Press)   The Canadian Press

Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime books ticket to main draw at Miami Open

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 20:12
MIAMI - Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime has advanced to the main draw at the Miami Open. The 18-year-old from Montreal defeated Paolo Lorenzi of Italy 7-6 (1), 6-2 in the second and final round of qualifying for the ATP Tour Masters 1000 event on Wednesday. “I served much better today. I made a few errors in rhythm, in shot location at the beginning but slowly, it came together,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Lorenzi had a good first set. He played well, he was solid. In the tiebreak, I served well again, took my opportunity, And after that, everything was on my side. So overall I’m pretty satisfied with the effort today.” Auger-Aliassime will play fellow qualifier Casper Ruud of Norway on Friday. While Auger-Aliassime is ranked 57th in the world after a string of good results over the past month, his ranking was not high enough to secure a spot into the main draw when the entry list came out several weeks ago. Auger-Aliassime was the second seed in the qualifying draw, while Lorenzi was 17th. Auger-Aliassime joins No. 20 seed Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., and No. 12 seed Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., in the main draw. As seeded players, Shapovalov and Raonic get byes. On the women’s side, Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., had her first-round match against Irina-Camelia Begu of Romania postponed due to rain. They will make up the match on Thursday morning. The 18-year-old Andreescu is coming off a stunning run to the title at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. Miami organizers rewarded Andreescu with the featured match on centre court on the opening night of the tournament, only to have the rain take her off of it. The Canadian Press

Nicaragua government says it will free all jailed protesters

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 20:07
MANAGUA, Nicaragua - President Daniel Ortega’s administration promised Wednesday to free within 90 days all demonstrators arrested in the year since protests erupted against the Nicaraguan government. The release of an estimated 640 opposition protesters had been the main demand of the opposition for continuing talks with the government. In return, the government is asking for the lifting of sanctions imposed on Ortega’s government. The announcement on prisoners was made by Waldemar Sommertag, the papal nuncio in Nicaragua, accompanied by opposition and government officials. The statement said the talks that started Feb. 27 would resume Thursday, after several days of tension since weekend protests were broken up by security forces. At least 325 people died last year amid the anti-government protests, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Starting in April 2018, Nicaragua’s economy was devastated by nearly five months of unrest initially sparked by cuts to social security benefits but that quickly evolved into calls for Ortega to step down and allow early elections. The government cracked down on the protests, and thousands of people were wounded, detained or fled into exile. The government has since imposed a de facto ban on opposition demonstrations and shuttered some independent media outlets and non-governmental organizations. According to an agenda for the talks issued Tuesday, discussions will focus on electoral reform. Ortega has been accused of perpetuating himself in power and undermining the independence of electoral authorities and other branches of government. The government and the opposition Civic Alliance will also invite the International Red Cross to monitor the prisoner release, and the Organization of American States to accompany talks on electoral reforms. The opposition has called for early elections in 2021. Ortega so far has rejected the idea of moving up elections. Once agreements are reached, “In due time, and in agreement between the parties, a call will be made to the international community to suspend sanctions,” according to the agenda document. Gabriela Selser, The Associated Press

Tavares, Matthews lead Maple Leafs to 4-2 win over Sabres

Wed, 03/20/2019 - 19:57
BUFFALO, N.Y. - John Tavares and Austin Matthews each had a goal and assist, and the Toronto Maple Leafs won for just the second time in six games, beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-2 on Wednesday night. Mitchell Marner and Zach Hyman, into an empty net, also scored and the Maple Leafs inched to within four points of the idle Boston Bruins in the race for second place in the Atlantic Division standings. Garret Sparks stopped 22 shots for Toronto, which was playing on consecutive nights after a 3-0 loss at Nashville. Casey Mittelstadt and Alexander Nylander scored for Buffalo, which dropped to 1-7-1 in its past eight. Coming off a 4-3 shootout win over St. Louis on Sunday, the Sabres have gone 41 games since winning consecutive outings. It’s a stretch dating to Dec. 11-13, during which Buffalo dropped to 12-24-5. The lack of consistency has raised questions regarding Sabres coach Phil Housley’s job security just two seasons into his tenure. Last year, Buffalo became the NHL’s first team to finish 31st following the addition of expansion Vegas Golden Knights. This year, the Sabres have unraveled over the past four months and are in jeopardy of becoming the league’s second team to miss the playoffs in a season in which they won 10 straight games. Toronto overcame a 1-0 first-period deficit by scoring three consecutive goals, including Tavares and Marner scoring 1:50 apart, spanning the second intermission. Tavares scored the go-ahead goal with 1:28 left in the second period by converting a puck that pingponged into the crease. William Nylander’s shot from the right circle struck the crossbar, then the post, and bounced to the left of the net, where it struck Buffalo captain Jack Eichel’s knee and ricocheted back into the crease, where Tavares tapped it in. Tavares then set up Marner’s goal 22 seconds into the third period with a no-look backhand pass from the left boards. Marner was untouched in driving to the slot, where he snapped a shot under goalie Carter Hutton’s blocker. Hutton was solid by making 42 saves in a game Toronto outshot Buffalo 46-24. Buffalo’s Nylander - younger brother of Toronto’s Alexander Nylander - cut Toronto’s lead to 3-2 with 14:23 left when he one-timed in Vladimir Sobotka’s centring pass into the slot. Sparks was coming off a 38-save performance in a 6-2 loss at Ottawa on Saturday, and suggested the Leafs needed to show more emotion. Coach Mike Babcock, on Wednesday, agreed with the notion that Sparks’ comments might place more pressure on the backup goalie. As for his expectations, Babcock said he wanted Sparks to focus on his own game. “Any time you’re looking for any other help in life, it usually doesn’t go your way,” Babcock said. “So just own what you do and play as hard as you can tonight. We’re going to play hard for Sparky, and he’s going to play well.” The Leafs thoroughly dominated the Sabres to open the game, but wound up trailing 1-0. Buffalo was being outshot 17-2 through the first 11 1/2 minutes and 18-5 before Mittelstadt opened the scoring with a power-play goal at the 15:04 mark. Rasmus Dahlin’s assist on Mittelstadt’s goal upped the rookie’s total to 38 points and moved him ahead of Bobby Orr for second-most by an NHL defenceman before his 19th birthday. The only player ahead of him is Housley, who had 57 points as an 18-year-old with Buffalo in 1982-83. NOTES: Toronto swept the four-game season series over Buffalo and improved to 22-11-4 on the road - one win shy of matching the franchise record set in 2003-04. … The Sabres assigned prospect forward Matej Pekar to AHL Rochester after the 19-year-old completed his season with Barrie of the Ontario Hockey League. It’s unclear when Pekar will play, as the 2018 fourth-round draft pick has been out since breaking his collarbone in January. … With San Jose clinching a playoff spot, the Sabres officially acquired the Sharks’ first-round pick in this year’s draft. The Sharks had the option of retaining the pick - acquired in a trade for Evander Kane - if they missed the playoffs this year and send Buffalo their 2020 first-round selection. UP NEXT Maple Leafs: Host New York Rangers on Saturday. Sabres: Open three-game road trip at Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. ___ More AP hockey: and John Wawrow, The Associated Press