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Despite BREXIT: UK could gain U.S. 70 billion
dollars by 2030 in autonomous vehicle market

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Britain is set to gain 62 billion pounds (nearly 70 billion U.S. dollars) annually in the autonomous vehicle market by 2030, according to a report published on Thursday by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and Frost & Sullivan, a business consulting firm.

The report said that Britain was in a pole position in the global race in the connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) market.

The technology could prevent 47,000 serious accidents and save 3,900 lives over the next decade, and the autonomous vehicle industry could create some 420,000 new jobs by 2030, the report said.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of SMMT, said that "A transport revolution stands before us as we move to self-driving cars."

"Government and industry have already invested millions to lay the foundations, and the opportunities are dramatic—new jobs, economic growth and improvements across society," said Hawes.

"The UK’s potential is clear," he said, adding that the country should move fast in the sector.

Regarding Brexit, he said that "we need the deadlock broken with ‘no deal’ categorically ruled out."

"Brexit has undermined our global reputation for political stability and it continues to devour valuable time and investment," he explained, arguing that "a future relationship (with the EU must be) agreed that reflects the integrated nature of our industry and delivers frictionless trade."

Sarwant Singh, senior partner and head of mobility at Frost & Sullivan, said that "The UK already has the essential building blocks—forward thinking legislation, advanced technology infrastructure, a highly skilled labour force, and a tech savvy customer base—to spearhead CAV deployment over the next decade.

"However, it will require sustained and coordinated efforts by all key stakeholders, especially the government, to realize the significant annual economic benefits forecast for the UK from CAV deployment by 2030 and drive the vision of safe, convenient and accessible mobility for all," Singh said.


British Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition leader
meet again as elusive Brexit breakthrough still sought

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- British Prime Minister Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, met again on Thursday as efforts are underway in search of a Brexit breakthrough.

A Downing Street spokesperson said after the latest round of talks, which lasted about five hours, that they had been detailed and productive.

"Both sets of negotiating teams met for four and a half hours of detailed and productive technical talks in the Cabinet Office, supported by the civil service," said the spokesperson, with no mention of whether any potential Brexit deal had yet been found.

The brief statement added:

"The government and the opposition hope to meet again tomorrow (Friday) for further work to find a way forward to deliver on the referendum, mindful of the need to make progress ahead of the forthcoming European Council."

Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary for the Labour Party, was also tight lipped about whether progress had been made, telling waiting reporters:

"We have had further discussions and we will be having further discussions with the government."

The two teams of negotiators are to continue their deliberations Friday, with no hint of a second meeting over a potential deal between May and Corbyn.

The pair of political heavyweights had talks that lasted two hours on Wednesday in a last ditch effort to find a way out of a Brexit logjam.

Although both sides describing the Wednesday meeting as "constructive", no breakthrough was reported from it despite their agreement to further discussions on Thursday.

The European Union (EU) has imposed an April 12 deadline on Britain to present proposals to Brussels to win an extension to its departure date, or to leave with no deal next Friday.

EU leaders are gathering on April 10 when a decision is likely to be made on Britain being allowed to delay its departure from the bloc.

The original Brexit date, March 29, was pushed back in order to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

In Westminster, politicians in Britain’s unelected House of Lords started Thursday the task of debating a new bill to prevent May from leaving the EU without a deal.

The House of Commons backed the proposed bill Wednesday night, put forward by Labour politician Yvette Cooper, by just one vote, 312 votes against 311.

The House of Lords will continue its processes on Monday with the aim of the measure becoming law before Wednesday’s emergency meeting of all EU leaders.

But there have been complaints from politicians that an important law being "rammed through parliament" is likely to harm the constitution.

The Daily Telegraph reported Thursday night that a number of senior Conservative ministers were holding an emergency meeting with May at 10 Downing Street in the wake of discussions with the opposition Labour party.

May was forced to open talks with Corbyn to find a way forward after her own Brexit deal was rejected by the House of Commons three times since January.

In Dublin, visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters:

"We do hope that the intensive discussions that are ongoing in London will lead to a situation by next Wednesday, when we have a special council meeting, where Prime Minister Theresa May will have something to table to us on the basis of which we can continue to talk."

"We want to stand together as 27. Until the very last hour - I can say this from the German side - we will do everything in order to prevent a no-deal Brexit - Britain crashing out of the European Union."

Merkel was in the Irish capital to meet Ireland’s Prime Minster Leo Varadkar.

In the middle of frantic deliberations in the parliament, politicians in the House of Commons were forced to abandon their debates when torrents water gushed through the roof into the historic chamber with such force it drowned out the speeches.

More Brexit talks between political foes as rage, anger continues at Westminster

LONDON United Kingdom (Xinhua) -- Negotiating teams from British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government and the main opposition Labour Party met Thursday in their mission to find a deal to pave the way for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

The talks followed an opening face-to-face meeting Wednesday between May and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn which were described as "constructive" but which so far have not made a breakthrough.

Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington headed the government side in Thursday’s talks, while Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer headed the Labour Party negotiators.

Eurosceptic MPs continued to vent their rage and anger at May’s decision to hold joint talks with Corbyn who has already set his sights on moving into 10 Downing Street as prime minister if a snap general election is called.

The Daily Telegraph reported the Conservative Party headquarters has been flooded with angry messages fearing May’s strategy will harm the Conservative’s prospects in town and city local elections on May 2.

Grassroots party members as well as a number of politicians have called for May to be replaced with some warning her actions will "destroy the Conservative Party".

The Telegraph headlined one leading article: "An unmitigated disaster: The Tory Party at war after Theresa May’s Brexit betrayal".

Meanwhile at Westminster the fallout continued Thursday following a dramatic round of voting in the House of Commons that lasted until almost midnight Wednesday.

A parliamentary bill, put forward by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, aimed at preventing Britain from crashing out of the EU without a deal passed by 313 to 312, a margin of just one vote.

The bill was set to be debated later Thursday in the House of Lords as part of the legislative process to make it law. It will also need royal assent from Queen Elizabeth II.

Cooper and a cross-party group succeeded in forcing through an emergency bill in less than six hours to instruct May to seek an extension to Article 50, the EU countdown timetable, and avoid a no-deal Brexit. May’s government opposed the Cooper bill.

The BBC published a chart Thursday from the Institute for Government showing more ministers have resigned from May’s government than any prime minister since 1979.

Excluding cabinet reshuffles, May’s tally of resignations has passed 30, overtaking then Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair who had around 29 resignations.

Third place went to Britain’s only other female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, who faced 25 ministerial resignations.

The Sun newspaper in London said Thursday it has been told that 15 Brexiteer ministers are "on the edge" of also walking out.

Britain has until April 12 to propose a withdrawal plan to Brussels, which will have to be approved by all 27 EU members.

If it fails, Britain will leave without a deal on April 12. EU leaders have been summoned to an emergency meeting on April 10 to discuss the Brexit crisis.

Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen
suggests patience to avoid hard Brexit

ATHENS (Xinhua) -- Visiting Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen on Thursday called for patience to avoid a hard Brexit and stronger cooperation among EU member states to address the migration issue.

"We would be as patient as possible, because we should try to avoid a hard Brexit," he said during joint statements with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras after their meeting, according to Greek national broadcaster ERT.

"We should make efforts up to the last minute to avoid a no-deal Brexit," Tsipras noted.

The two leaders exchanged views on bilateral, European and international current affairs, focusing on the management of the refugee-migration challenge, they said.

"We are in a totally different place now compared to 2015, but we still have problems we need to deal with and this will stay with us for decades.

"We have to find a way forward and work together," Rasmussen said.

The Danish PM called for more development aid to countries of migrants’ origin, among others, to put an end to illegal migration flows.

Solidarity comes in many forms and Denmark has demonstrated solidarity by providing more than 200 million euros (224.4 million U.S. dollars) humanitarian and development assistance to five countries last year and by participating in the European border patrol agency’s (FRONTEX) mission in Greece, Rasmussen said.

"We agreed that what is needed is a coherent European approach to effectively deal with the issue," the Greek leader added.

Greece received more than one million refugees and migrants since 2015 and continues to receive migratory flows.

Emphasis should be given to promoting cooperation with countries outside the EU in the field of readmission, Tsipras said.

Regarding economic and social convergence in the EU, the Greek Prime Minister praised Denmark’s welfare system.

"We believe that all European countries should converge upwards to a level of social benefits, to a welfare model which will be protecting the majority of citizens," he said.

Netherlands bracing for Brexit worst-case scenario

by Maria Vasileiou THE HAGUE (Xinhua) -- With just eight days to go before the next decisive April 12 deadline, the Dutch are bracing for a no-deal Brexit and stepping up contingency planning to mitigate the impact of Britain leaving the European Union (EU) without a divorce deal.

Concerns range from long delays at container terminals in Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port, and the economic impact of a drop in exports to shortages of medicines and uncertainties over citizens’ rights.

"We are preparing for the worst in the event of a no-deal Brexit to respond to the situation emerging from Britain abruptly becoming a third country," said Erik Jeene, spokesperson at the Ministry of Finance, which has played a key role in the country’s Brexit preparation.

The Netherlands is among the EU countries expected to be severely hit by Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc.

But Jeene told Xinhua that "there are no guarantees we won’t have disruptions.

"There is still uncertainty."

He added that the Dutch authorities are not the only party involved in efforts to ensure a smooth transition in the event of a disorderly Brexit.

"It is a joint effort, all parties, including companies, must be prepared."

For the operations at the port of Rotterdam, a no-deal Brexit would mean the need to immediately re-establish customs controls on goods coming in from the UK.

"Operators coming from Britain to Rotterdam could no longer go through the current process of customs clearance in the case of a hard Brexit," explained Jeene.

Around 40 million tons of goods are shipped between the Netherlands and Britain every year via the port of Rotterdam, which is also the main hub for cargo passing from other EU member states to Britain.

To deal with the situation, the Finance Ministry has set aside 100 million euros (112.2 million U.S. dollars) to finance the preparations, including the appointment of 900 new customs officers.

More than half of them have already been hired, but only 300 have received the necessary training and are ready to fill in the additional positions needed when Britain crashes out of the EU.

"We don’t know exactly how it will be during the first days in case of a no-deal Brexit, but we have prepared for the worst.

"We have done whatever it takes to prepare," Port of Rotterdam Authority (PRA) spokesperson Leon Willems told Xinhua.

Rotterdam has been putting in place measures as part of a coordinated action, including emergency overflow parking spaces for up to 700 trucks if their customs documents have not been properly prepared to go through customs clearance.

In addition, Portbase, the Dutch digitalized port communications system, has developed a chain-wide solution for the customs obligations that will be in effect in the Dutch ports following Brexit.

But uncertainties still prevail.

"The predominant challenge is the adaptation to Portbase," said Willems.

Ferry operators have demanded that their clients pre-notify their cargo so that customs can give clearance digitally, otherwise truck drivers "will be sent away" and will have to find a place in the contingency parking lot.

To avoid such situations, PRA and other Dutch port authorities have recently started to actively distribute leaflets and flyers to lorry drivers with information in 10 languages.

"Unless they adapt, their cargo will not arrive on time," warned Willems.

The PRA anticipates that it will take a few weeks after Brexit for transport companies to get used to the new system.

Amid growing fears that a disorderly Brexit could cause shortages, companies have rented additional warehouses at the port to stockpile goods, ranging from chemical and medical products to food.

The Dutch Ministry of Health also announced in February that it would secure a stockpile of 50 "critical" medicines supplied by Britain to avoid possible shortages caused in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The Netherlands Food and Consumer Safety Authority (NVWA) has embarked on hiring around 140 veterinarians to handle an increase in food inspections. Currently, animals and food can circulate freely thanks to a system of shared controls among the 28 EU members.

The British Parliament voted earlier this week in favor of a further extension to avoid a no-deal Brexit next Friday, and the issue will be discussed by the 27 EU leaders at a summit on April 10.

According to the European Commission, which has been busy announcing measures to prepare for a no-deal Brexit, "as things currently stand, the UK will leave the EU without a deal at midnight on 12 April."

A member of the Dutch task force on Brexit - a special team of experts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs set up following the Brexit referendum - told Xinhua that the Dutch would welcome decisions that would lead to avoiding Britain crashing out of the EU. A further extension to the April 12 deadline might also be helpful, he added.

A study conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Britain accounts for 8 percent of total Dutch exports and 7 percent of total imports into the Netherlands, and the Brexit-related increase in tariff and non-tariff costs of exporting into Britain would result in an almost 17 percent decline in overall Dutch exports to Britain.

The Netherlands Court of Audit has estimated Brexit’s potential macroeconomic effects on the Netherlands at 2.3 billion euros (2.58 billion U.S. dollars) through 2023, while the country might have to also pay higher contributions to the EU budget to compensate for Britain no longer paying.

In February, the Dutch government launched an information campaign for businesses, which included a "muppet" character representing Brexit that becomes a serious obstacle to companies.

The Dutch also launched a special online program, called the Brexit Impact Scan, to help businesses identify possible consequences that Brexit could have on their operations.

"Here they can fill in what kind of company they are, if they export to the UK, if they already export to another non-EU country, if they have, for example, a daughter company in the UK," explained Jeene.

The Dutch Finance Ministry has also put aside around 4 million euros, offering special cash vouchers to companies covering up to 50 percent of the actual costs with a maximum of 2,500 euros to alleviate some of the burden of a no-deal Brexit.

"The Brexit Voucher is for advice regarding alternative markets or to identify issues regarding logistics or the free movement of persons, goods and services," explained Jeene.

A study commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows that as of mid-March, companies are mainly worried about new regulations relating to customs formalities, checks and inspections, and import duties.

Some 28 percent of the business people surveyed expected a fairly large or very large effect on their company, while 77 percent saw Brexit as likely to have a predominantly negative effect.

A no-deal Brexit would also affect the protection of citizen’s rights, but preparations are less advanced.

So far it is unclear to what extent the full rights of British citizens living in the EU would be protected in the event of a disorderly divorce.

The Dutch Parliament, which has also given its approval for emergency powers to the government to pass laws in the event of a no-deal Brexit, voted early this week in favor of a motion calling on the government to pressure Europe to ring-fence British nationals’ rights in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

In addition, the Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service (IND) has set up a special website informing British nationals that the Dutch government will provide for a decent solution for their residence in the Netherlands in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

But as the conditions for obtaining new resident status are not yet known, the IND says it will contact all British nationals to inform them about what they should do.

German chancellor expresses strong solidarity with Ireland over Brexit issue

DUBLIN (Xinhua) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel said here on Thursday that her country will stand together with the other European Union (EU) member states and do everything they can to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Merkel made this remark at a press conference after meeting with Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar on Thursday afternoon.

"We want to stand together as 27, until the very last hour.

"I can say this from the German side.

"We will do everything in order to prevent a no-deal Brexit," she told the press conference held at Farmleigh House, a state guest house of Ireland, which is located next to the scenic Phoenix Park in west Dublin.

"We have to do this together with Britain," she said, adding:

"We do hope that the intensive discussions that are ongoing in London will lead to a situation by next Wednesday, when we have a special council meeting, where Prime Minister Theresa May will have something to table to us on the basis of which we can continue to talk."

Merkel was referring to a summit meeting of the European Council scheduled on April 10, two days before the deadline EU gives to Britain for Brexit. Earlier, the EU said Britain must come up with a clear solution to break the current impasse of Brexit before April 12 or it could face a no-deal Brexit.

Merkel’s remarks were viewed by the media here as an important outcome of Thursday’s meeting between the two leaders as well as another assurance from a heavyweight EU member state for Ireland.

Ireland is most concerned about the possible return of a hard border between itself and Britain’s Northern Ireland after Brexit.

However, if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal, a hard border looks almost inevitable.

Avoiding a hard border after Brexit is something that Ireland has been trying hard to achieve in the Brexit talks and needs firm support from other EU member states.

Addressing a joint press conference with Merkel, Varadkar expressed his thanks for the strong solidarity Germany showed for Ireland.

He said that Merkel has been a very strong ally to Ireland throughout the Brexit negotiations.

He also noted that both Ireland and Germany want to have a close future relationship with Britain.

Britain’s leaving on April 12 is not an outcome anyone wants, he said, adding that patience is needed in dealing with Britain over the Brexit issue.

"Matters continue to play out in London and I think we need to be patient and understanding of the predicament that they are in," he said.

But he also warned that "There is very little time left and we have to prepare ourselves for all outcomes."

According to the Irish government press office, Merkel’s visit to Dublin is mainly to discuss with Varadkar over the latest developments of the Brexit issue.

Local media quoted Merkel as saying before the meeting that she wanted to focus on solutions to the Irish border in a no-deal scenario during her meeting with the Irish prime minister.



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