London mayor calls for second Brexit referendum

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, appears on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, in London, Britain September 16, 2018. (BBC/Reuters)
Updated 16 September 2018
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London mayor calls for second Brexit referendum

  • Labor mayor says PM May leading UK down damaging path
  • Khan's backing adds pressure on Labour to back new vote

LONDON: London mayor Sadiq Khan has called for another referendum on Britain’s European Union membership, saying the prime minister’s handling of Brexit negotiations had become “mired in confusion and deadlock” and was leading the country down a damaging path.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29. But with Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans still not accepted, some lawmakers, as well as union and business leaders, are arguing for people to have a final say on any deal with Brussels.
May has repeatedly ruled out a second referendum. She says members of parliament will get to vote on whether to accept any final deal.
The backing of Khan, a member of the main opposition Labour party, for a second referendum will put more pressure on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to change his opposition to the idea when the party meets for its annual conference in a week’s time.
A second referendum, dubbed a “people’s vote” by its proponents, is not Labour party policy, although finance spokesman John McDonnell said last month that no option should be off the table.
London backed remaining in the EU in the June 2016 referendum that went in favor of leaving.
Khan said Britain was now facing either a bad deal or a no-deal Brexit, both of which were “incredibly risky.”
Writing in Sunday’s Observer newspaper, he blamed the government’s handling of the negotiations and said the threat to living standards, the economy and jobs was too great for voters not to have a say.
“The government’s abject failure – and the huge risk we face of a bad deal or a no-deal Brexit – means that giving people a fresh say is now the right – and only – approach left for our country,” he said.

GOVERNMENT LIFELINE
Labour’s international trade spokesman Barry Gardiner said a second referendum would throw the Conservative government a lifeline.
“If this government cannot do what it is supposed to and govern, then we need actually to change the government,” he told Sky News.
Khan said the “sensible thing” would be for the prime minister to call a general election if she did not have support for any Brexit deal.
“(But) if there’s not going to be a general election, the next best thing is for the British public to have a say on the outcome of the negotiations,” he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr.
Environment Minister Michael Gove, a leading figure in the campaign to leave the EU more than two years ago, said Khan wanted to frustrate the vote.
“People voted clearly — 17.4 million people voted to leave the European Union — and Sadiq is essentially saying ‘Stop, let’s delay that whole process, let’s throw it into chaos’ and I think that would be a profound mistake,” he told Marr.
Theresa May said on Sunday she was focused on her plan for a relationship with the EU based on a common rulebook for all goods, and that she was “a little bit irritated” by constant speculation about her position.
“This debate is not about my future; this debate is about the future of the people of the UK and the future of the United Kingdom,” she said in excerpts from an interview with the BBC that will be broadcast on Monday
“It’s ensuring that we get that good deal from the European Union which is good for people in the UK, wherever they live in the UK, that’s what’s important for us.”
But with time running out for London and Brussels to thrash out a deal, Britain is preparing plans for a no-deal Brexit.
Finance Minister Philip Hammond told senior ministers last week that Brexit could have to be delayed beyond March 29 in order to pass new laws, The Sun newspaper said on Saturday.
The idea was immediately rejected by May, the report said.


Massive blackout hits tens of millions in South America

A vendor waits for customers during a national blackout, in Buenos Aires, Argentina June 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 40 min 12 sec ago
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Massive blackout hits tens of millions in South America

  • The subsidies were a key part of the electricity policy of President Néstor Kirchner’s 2003-2007 administration and the presidency of Kirchner’s wife and successor, Cristina Fernández in 2007-2015

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina: A massive blackout left tens of millions of people without electricity in Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay on Sunday in what the Argentine president called an “unprecedented” failure in the countries’ power grid.
Authorities were working frantically to restore power, and by the evening electricity had returned to 90 percent of the South American country, according to Argentine state news agency Telam. Power also had been restored to most of Uruguay’s 3 million people.
As the sun rose Sunday over the darkened country, Argentine voters were forced to cast ballots by the light of cell phones in gubernatorial elections. Public transportation was halted, shops closed and patients dependent on home medical equipment were urged to go to hospitals with generators.
“This is an unprecedented case that will be investigated thoroughly,” Argentine President Mauricio Macri said on Twitter.
Argentina’s power grid is generally known for being in a state of disrepair, with substations and cables that were insufficiently upgraded as power rates remained largely frozen for years.
The country’s energy secretary said the blackout occurred at about 7 a.m. local time when a key Argentine interconnection system collapsed. By mid-afternoon nearly half of Argentina’s 44 million people were still in the dark.
The Argentine energy company Edesur said on Twitter that the failure originated at an electricity transmission point between the power stations at the country’s Yacyretá dam and Salto Grande in the country’s northeast. But why it occurred was still unknown.
An Argentine independent energy expert said that systemic operational and design errors played a role in the power grid’s collapse.
“A localized failure like the one that occurred should be isolated by the same system,” said Raúl Bertero, president of the Center for the Study of Energy Regulatory Activity in Argentina. “The problem is known and technology and studies (exist) to avoid it.”
Energy Secretary Gustavo Lopetegui said workers were working to restore electricity nationwide by the end of the day.
“This is an extraordinary event that should have never happened,” he told a news conference. “It’s very serious.”
Uruguay’s energy company UTE said the failure in the Argentine system cut power to all of Uruguay for hours and blamed the collapse on a “flaw in the Argentine network.”
In Paraguay, power in rural communities in the south, near the border with Argentina and Uruguay, was also cut. The country’s National Energy Administration said service was restored by afternoon by redirecting energy from the Itaipu hydroelectric plant the country shares with neighboring Brazil.
In Argentina, only the southernmost province of Tierra del Fuego was unaffected by the outage because it is not connected to the main power grid.
Brazilian and Chilean officials said their countries had not been affected.
Many residents of Argentina and Uruguay said the size of the outage was unprecedented.
“I was just on my way to eat with a friend, but we had to cancel everything. There’s no subway, nothing is working,” said Lucas Acosta, a 24-year-old Buenos Aires resident. “What’s worse, today is Father’s Day. I’ve just talked to a neighbor and he told me his sons won’t be able to meet him.”
“I’ve never seen something like this,” said Silvio Ubermann, a taxi driver in the Argentine capital. “Never such a large blackout in the whole country.”
Several Argentine provinces had elections for governor on Sunday, which proceeded with voters using their phone screens and built-in flashlights to illuminate their ballots.
“This is the biggest blackout in history, I don’t remember anything like this in Uruguay,” said Valentina Giménez, a resident of the capital, Montevideo. She said her biggest concern was that electricity be restored in time to watch the national team play in the Copa America football tournament Sunday evening.
Since taking office, Argentine President Macri has said that gradual austerity measures were needed to revive the country’s struggling economy. He has cut red tape and tried to reduce the government’s budget deficit by ordering job cuts and reducing utility subsidies, which he maintained was necessary to recuperate lost revenue due to years-long mismanagement of the electricity sector.
According to the Argentine Institute for Social Development, an average family in Argentina still pays 20 times less for electricity than similar households in neighboring countries.
The subsidies were a key part of the electricity policy of President Néstor Kirchner’s 2003-2007 administration and the presidency of Kirchner’s wife and successor, Cristina Fernández in 2007-2015. Fernandez is now running for vice president in October elections.