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‘Let common sense prevail’: Plea from Irish businesses | World News



One of the largest cross-border businesses on the island of Ireland has called for “common sense to prevail” in last-ditch efforts to reach a Brexit deal.

O’Neill’s, based in County Tyrone, produces Gaelic football kits. Each team’s colours can cross the border up to eight times during the manufacturing process.

The yarn arrives in Dublin Port, crosses the border for weaving and repeatedly for dyeing, for cutting, for stitching, for packaging and for distribution.

Leo Varadkar says Ireland's preference is for a Brexit deal to be struck in October

Leo Varadkar says a Brexit delay is his preferred outcome if a deal cannot be reached

The managing director says politicians need to explain to his staff why the company is preparing to relocate its Northern Ireland factory if there’s a no-deal Brexit.

Kieran Kennedy said: “Look at the 700 staff here in Strabane, they come from all traditions, see how it would affect their livelihood.”

“Do they want to be associated with losing jobs for the sake of the union or whatever? We just want to trade how we have always traded, so let common sense prevail,” he added.

Sky's deputy political editor Sam Coates explores the plan for Northern Ireland as the EU and the UK government head into intense talks.

Sky’s Sam Coates explains the latest customs plan

At the Empire Music Hall in Belfast, where comedians make their debut, a Sky News panel of experts concluded that a no-deal Brexit would be no joke.

Victor Chestnutt, deputy president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union, said: “If food flows into the UK tariff-free and we face a tariff going out, we are on a hiding to nothing. Our farmers will disappear.”

“The solution is some leadership in politics,” added Tina McKenzie, who chairs the Federation of Small Businesses NI.

“We put forward actual solutions… the enhanced economic zone, where trade can flow through Northern Ireland into GB from Europe and from GB into Europe via Northern Ireland.”

Unionists rejected Theresa May’s backstop position of Northern Ireland remaining in the EU’s customs union and single market, if necessary.

The EU rejected Boris Johnson’s alternative – Northern Ireland leaving the customs union but accepting single market regulations.

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Hopes had all but faded until the prime minister met his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar and announced that they could see a pathway to an agreement.

Aodhan Connolly, director of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, said: “Any alternative arrangements need to do what the backstop does. What we need…is to have unfettered access to both the Great British market and the EU market.”

Some point to the use of technology at the Norway-Sweden border but 1,300 commercial vehicles cross that each day, compared to 13,000 at the Northern Irish border.

The Irish border problem explained

The Irish border has emerged as Brexit’s biggest problem. One proposed solution is called ‘the backstop’. So what is it?

Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, asked: “Are you going to chip every cow? Are you going to chip every human? If a visitor arrives from North America, I don’t necessarily want to have to chip and pin them when they arrive.”

The subtle nature of the border enables people to identify as British or Irish or both – a key component of the Good Friday Agreement.

It is the political implication of almost any practical solution offered that keeps the border front and centre of what many regard as the endgame.

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Hong Kong: UK expresses ‘deep concern’ in joint statement condemning China’s controversial security bill | World News



Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has condemned China for passing its controversial security law in a statement that accuses Beijing of “curtailing” Hong Kong’s liberties.

The statement, which has also been signed by Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne, and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, comes after the draft legislation was officially endorsed by the National People’s Congress in Beijing.

Riot police have been deployed in Hong Kong over fears violent clashes could break out over the legislation, which would mean China could set up intelligence bases across the territory.

Mr Raab and his colleagues expressed their “deepest concern” over the passing of the bill, claiming it risks “eroding Hong Kong‘s autonomy” and goes back on the Sino-British Joint Declaration.

The statement reads: “Direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong by the Beijing authorities, rather than through Hong Kong’s own institutions as provided for under Article 23 of the Basic Law, would curtail the Hong Kong people’s liberties, and in doing so, dramatically erode Hong Kong’s autonomy and the system that made it so prosperous.”

China's President Xi Jinping (C) applauds after the National People's Congress approves a proposal to draft a Hong Kong security law
China’s President Xi Jinping (C) applauds after the National People’s Congress approves a proposal to draft a Hong Kong security law

The vote overrides the authority of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, where efforts to push the bill through had been thwarted by public opposition.

Chinese officials will now draft details of the new law, which it is believed will ban sedition – actions that encourage dissent against China‘s authorities.

Beijing says the legislation is aimed at tackling secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference.

Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader, Carrie Lam, claimed in a statement welcoming the vote: “The law will not affect the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong residents.”

Opposition Lawmaker throws plants at LegCO president

A politician throws plants at the LegCo president during a debate on the criminalisation of insults against the national anthem.

But campaigners in the city were despondent, with pro-democracy lawmaker Dennis Kwok telling reporters: “This is the death knell for Hong Kong, make no mistake of it, this is the end of ‘one country, two systems’ … the Hong Kong that we loved, a free Hong Kong.”

Thousands of people have already taken to the streets in anger over the bill, with demonstrators staying out late into the evening on Wednesday.

They believe it will undermine civil liberties and might be used to suppress political activity.

They were heard chanting for full democracy and for Hong Kong to seek independence from China, saying this is now “the only way out”.

An anti-government demonstrator argues with riot police
An anti-government demonstrator argues with riot police

And it came against the backdrop of escalating threats from Washington, where Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Hong Kong no longer qualified for special treatment under US law, potentially dealing a devastating blow to its status as a major financial hub.

He told Congress that China’s plan to impose the new legislation was “only the latest in a series of actions that fundamentally undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedoms”.

“No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” he said.

China’s new bill is expected to see Chinese intelligence agencies set up bases in the city, which was supposed to have a high degree of autonomy under the terms of its 1997 handover by former colonial power Britain.

Chinese authorities and the Beijing-backed government in Hong Kong insisted there is no threat to the city’s high degree of autonomy and the new security law would be tightly focused.

The US and China clashed over Hong Kong at the United Nations on Wednesday after Beijing opposed a request by Washington for the Security Council to meet for discussions about the legislation.

The US mission to the UN said the issue was “a matter of urgent global concern that implicates international peace and security”, while China said the legislation was an internal matter.

China protest

Pro-democracy activists have who returned to the streets to protest against controversial new security laws in Hong Kong.

Why this legislation was a huge surprise – and a massive accelerant

By Tom Cheshire, Asia Correspondent

Amid the pandemic, it’s been much observed that history accelerates in crisis. Here in Beijing, years have been compressed into the last week, in terms of China, Hong Kong and the rest of the world.

On Friday, the National People’s Congress proposed national security legislation to cover Hong Kong. It was a huge surprise – and a massive accelerant. Hong Kong’s autonomy was supposed to last until 2047.

Beijing and Hong Kong insist that Hong Kong’s freedoms will be preserved. The US disagrees. Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State, told Congress that “no reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given the facts on the ground”.

It’s probable that the US will go on to impose sanctions – something unthinkable last year, even amid the heights of the Hong Kong protests and the heavy-handed police response. And US-China relations will reach their lowest ebb since the Korean War, nearly 70 years ago.

Clashes in Hong Kong ahead of the bill being rubber-stamped

Why has so much happened, so quickly, in this case? The pandemic initially looked to be a threat to the Chinese Communist Party.

Instead, they contained it, at the same time as the West grimly tallied tens of thousands of deaths. Washington railed against Beijing – the same trajectory as pre-pandemic, but now with much more vigour and much higher stakes.

Beijing responded equally forcefully. It has always wanted to bring Hong Kong to heel but seemed to be happy to wait and, year by year, grip Hong Kong tighter.

The pandemic accelerated time, so China seized this moment now, and that has accelerated time once more.

Issues like Taiwan – and China’s ultimate aim to “reunify” or in fact annexe it – seemed a generation in the future. Now they are conceivably short term.

Last year, protesters told me of their fear that, one day, Hong Kong would become “just another Chinese city”. The US is now saying that this is exactly the case. “One day” has come very quickly for the people of Hong Kong.

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Coronavirus: Restaurants and cafes reopen in Israel under strict rules | World News



Boris Johnson has said he is “optimistic” about pubs and restaurants reopening in the UK soon, but how easy will it be?

“I’m much more optimistic about that than I was.” the prime minister told MPs on Wednesday.

“We may be able to do things faster than I had previously thought.”

This week, Israel began reopening its hospitality sector
Businesses have been told they can expand onto pavements in order to create distance between customers

Countries are moving at different speeds, with their lockdown reductions dependent largely on the success they have had at containing the coronavirus.

Israel is one of a small number of nations which is now pushing ahead quickly with the reopening of society.

This week, the hospitality sector was allowed to reopen with businesses and customers being asked to stick to a set of rules.

But a couple of hours at one west Jerusalem cafe and the sense I get is that it is going to be extremely challenging.

So what are the rules?

The details will differ from country to country, but broadly they centre around extra hygiene and social distancing.

Restaurants have reopened with extra measures in place
Restaurants have reopened with extra measures in place

The Israeli government has issued guidelines for businesses which say:

  • Establishments with capacity of 100 or less can operate at 100%
  • Those with capacity of over 100 people must operate at 85%
  • A distance of 1.5m must be placed between tables
  • Tables and chairs must be fully disinfected between customers
  • Tables must only be set after customers are seated
  • Menus must be disposable
  • Salt, pepper and other condiments must be disinfected after each sitting
  • Antibacterial gel must be readily available
  • All food on display must be covered
  • Customer temperatures must be taken before they enter premises
  • A staff member in every restaurant must be assigned as being responsible for monitoring that regulations are followed

The reality seems to be a little different though.

Customers tend to bunch up subconsciously, waitresses’ masks slip down from their noses, and some people unintentionally walk past the waiter with the thermometer. It’s all a bit chaotic, naturally.

And this is all at a cafe, which is, on the face of it, taking the regulations seriously.

The owner was armed with a tape measure and had been diligently spacing out the tables to meet the required 1.5m (almost 5ft) distance.

The Israeli government and local authorities are acutely aware of how important it is to get the economy moving again, but balancing that against the regulations is hard.

The authorities here have given restaurants permission to spread out along pavements and even into parking bays, allowing them to seat more people at a safe distance. The weather in Israel is on their side.

A distance of 1.5m must be placed between tables
A distance of 1.5m must be placed between tables

In Tel Aviv, 115 bars, restaurants and cafes have been given the go-ahead to expand into public space around their premises.

The city’s mayor, Ron Huldai, said: “We will continue to fight for the 70,000 workers from the restaurants, bars, cafes, and clubs sector in Tel Aviv.

“These businesses are the beating heart of the urban economy and I have instructed the municipal executives to turn every stone to find ways to put them again on their feet.”

After a couple of hours at the Jerusalem cafe, on just day two of their reopening, it looks to me like the drive to return to normal is overwhelming the necessity to adapt our behaviour.

Whether it is retail, hospitality or travel, as we try to return to normal, or at least an “adapted normal”, the requirements seem to go against all our natural pre-corona instincts.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the social environment of a restaurant or pub.

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I guess it comes down to a risk assessment, accepting that infection rates will probably go up again, but must be controlled as much as possible by testing, tracing and social distancing.

We need to do everything we can to stick to the rules – a sort of global social contract to return our societies to normal.

It is a learning curve as we all adapt; but adapt we must, or the infection curve will steepen sharply once again.

Next week from Monday to Thursday, Dermot Murnaghan will be hosting After the Pandemic: Our New World — a series of special live programmes about what our world will be like once the pandemic is over.

We’ll be joined by some of the biggest names from the worlds of culture, politics, economics, science and technology. And you can take part too. If you’d like to be in our virtual audience – from your own home – and put questions to the experts, email

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German police investigate discovery of ape’s hand and foot in forest | World News



German police are investigating the grisly discovery of an ape’s severed hand and foot in a forest west of Munich.

The cleanly-detached body parts – complete with skin, hair, and nails – were found by a forester’s dog around a week ago near the Bavarian town of Grafrath.

One police tip suggested the finding was evidence that the government was carrying out coronavirus experiments on monkeys.

But after examination of the foot and hand, which appear to come from a chimpanzee, experts concluded that the body parts had been preserved with formaldehyde or another chemical used to keep scientific specimens.

“This makes it possible that the parts are significantly older than initially thought,” Michael Fischer, a police spokesman in nearby Fuerstenfeldbruck, told dpa news agency.

“The good news is that nobody has to worry that an ape was slaughtered in Fuerstenfeldbruck last week.”

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Officers are still trying to figure out how a chimpanzee’s parts ended up in a German forest, but say it seems likely it is at most an administrative offence rather than a crime.

In German law, an administrative offence does not reach the punishable unlawful content of a criminal offence but typically results in a fine.

“It could already be past the statute of limitations,” Mr Fischer added.

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