Canada formally requests clemency for Canadian sentenced to death in China

One day after China sentenced a Canadian man to die, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland says officials have made a formal request for clemency.

In response to questions from reporters on Tuesday, Freeland said that she has met twice with China’s ambassador to Canada about the decision on Monday to up the sentence imposed on Robert Schellenberg, who was sentenced to 15 years in a Chinese prison for drug smuggling but received the death sentence following his appeal of that ruling.

“We have already spoken with China’s ambassador to Canada and requested clemency,” she told reporters.

“I would also like to say with the case of Mr. Schellenberg, it’s important for us to remember that we’re talking about a human being, about a person. I spoke yesterday with Mr. Schellenberg’s father and it was a very emotional conversation for him, as people might imagine.”

She continued, adding that, “I think I speak for all Canadians that we really understand how difficult the situation is and I think the Schellenberg family has our country’s sympathy.”

Schellenberg was first arrested in China roughly four years ago on accusations of smuggling in 222 kg of methamphetamine.

His original sentence was handed down in November but his lawyers appealed the decision.

On review, the Chinese court — which is not independent as they are in Canada — ruled earlier this week the original sentence had been too light.

That decision comes as China continues to escalate a diplomatic feud over the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou.

Meng was arrested in Vancouver on Dec. 1, 2018, by Canadian law enforcement at the behest of the United States.

American authorities allege her company has been using a subsidiary to skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran.

Canada has an extradition treaty with the U.S. and arrested Meng under the terms of that agreement.

The Americans have until the end of January to formally submit a request for her extradition, which would kick-start legal proceedings that could take years.

Meng denies the allegation but China has attempted to brand the arrest as an act of political interference in the Canadian justice system and two weeks after her arrest, detained two Canadians working in China on allegations of what officials there called “endangering national security.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Freeland have cast those detentions as “arbitrary” and over the past month, Canadian allies including the United States, European Union, Germany, France, Australia, the Netherlands and others have all issued statements in support of the Canadian position.

On Monday, Trudeau also said China was “arbitrarily” applying the death sentence to Schellenberg.

Freeland repeated that assertion on Tuesday, characterizing the current situation as a “complicated and difficult moment” for the Canada-Sino relationship.

However, she also stressed that relationship will continue when asked if Canada might consider taking stronger measures against China for what some foreign policy experts have described as “hostage diplomacy.”

“Both Canada and China are committed to that relationship going forward,” Freeland said.

“I absolutely think the best thing for both Canada and China, and frankly for the whole world, is to get past these current difficulties.”

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Gaza faces 'unprecedented' humanitarian crisis

Gaza Palestinian economic experts are warning that even if international help is given immediately to the besieged area, a humanitarian disaster might be unavoidable.

    Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have entered their 11th year under a crippling siege imposed by Israel and Egypt, and are in dire need of international aid.

    Gaza Palestinian economic experts are warning that even if help is given immediately, a humanitarian disaster might be unavoidable.

    The blockade dictates day-to-day reality for the two million people living in Gaza, where Israel controls the borders, airspace, and waters.

     

    Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan reports.

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    University Leader Draws Criticism for Saying Some of Larry Nassar’s Victims Enjoy Spotlight

    John Engler, the interim president of Michigan State University, has drawn fire in recent days for saying in an interview that some of the women abused by Lawrence G. Nassar, a former faculty member and the ex-doctor for the United States national gymnastics team, appeared to be enjoying the spotlight.

    The comments by Mr. Engler, 70, who has been accused of antagonism toward Dr. Nassar’s hundreds of accusers, came during an interview with the The Detroit News, which last Friday published an article based on the interview.

    His remarks received renewed focus this week and sparked outrage after they were widely shared online. A spokeswoman for the university did not respond to emails seeking comment on Tuesday.

    “You’ve got people, they are hanging on and this has been … there are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight,” Mr. Engler said, according to The Detroit News. “In some ways they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it’s ending. It’s almost done.”

    Mr. Engler was appointed university president on an interim basis last year amid the Nassar abuse scandal, which led to the resignation and indictment of his predecessor. His comments were criticized by members of the board, including its recently elected chairwoman, Dianne Byrum, who described them in a statement to The Chronicle of Higher Education as “ill advised and not helpful to the healing process, survivors, or the university.”

    Brian Mosallam, another board member who organized an unsuccessful vote to fire Mr. Engler last June, said the remarks were “in poor taste and extremely insensitive.”

    “Clearly he is not the man fit to lead Michigan State University,” Mr. Mosallam said in an interview on Tuesday evening. “I am working closely with my colleagues to consider the next steps. It is a fluid situation.”

    Mr. Engler was also criticized by advocates for victims of Dr. Nassar, who last January was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for sexually abusing seven girls. He has been accused of abusing hundreds of girls while he was the longtime national medical director for USA Gymnastics, often under the guise of performing a medical exam.

    His accusers include well-known Olympics gymnasts, including the gold medalists Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney, Gabby Douglas, Jordyn Wieber and Simone Biles. He was also sentenced to 60 years in prison in December 2017 in a separate federal child pornography case.

    Rachael Denhollander, the first to publicly accuse Dr. Nassar of abuse, said in an interview on Tuesday that Mr. Engler’s remarks were “evidence for the lack of understanding and the lack of knowledge that he has about sexual abuse and the consequences of it and how difficult it is to speak up.”

    “The way he treats sexual assault survivors is exactly what we are talking about when we talk about a culture of abuse,” she said. “He blames, he shames and he attacks."

    Last year, Mr. Engler accused Ms. Denhollander in an email obtained by The Chronicle of Higher Education of being paid by her lawyer, John Manly, to coerce women into making abuse claims against Dr. Nassar.

    He later apologized for those remarks, which Mr. Manly said in an interview on Tuesday were “utterly false.” Ms. Denhollander said they were evidence of the “intentionally antagonistic posture” Mr. Engler had taken toward Dr. Nassar’s victims.

    “I have been doing sexual assault cases for 25 years and I have never seen an administrator of any institution act like this guy does,” said Mr. Manly, who represents 180 of Dr. Nassar’s accusers. “He makes Catholic bishops look enlightened in terms of their approach to sexual assault.”

    The scandal arising from Dr. Nassar’s crimes shook the worlds of gymnastics, Olympics sports and higher education and led to the resignation of Lou Anna K. Simon, Mr. Engler’s predeccesor as Michigan State president, last January.

    Ms. Simon was charged in November with two felonies and accused of lying to the police about her knowledge of the abuse committed by Dr. Nassar. A former Michigan State gymnastics coach was also charged in August with lying to the police.

    The university agreed to a $500 million settlement with abuse survivors last May, which was believed to be the largest ever reached in a sexual abuse case involving an American university.

    Michigan State upset abuse survivors in December when it announced the closing of a fund that paid for counseling for Dr. Nassar’s victims.

    Mr. Engler’s interview with The Detroit News focused on a recent decision by the university to reopen the fund, which he said would most likely be available for those who were not part of the $500 million settlement. That statement was also criticized by the chairwoman of the university’s board.

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    Nordstrom's full-price comparable sales for holiday season disappoints

    (Reuters) – Nordstrom Inc (JWN.N) said on Tuesday comparable store sales at its full-price department stores rose only 0.3 percent during the crucial months of November and December, blaming lower traffic.

    The department store operator said year-to-date sales at full-price stores were below its expectation and included higher discounts taken during the holiday season and steps to adjust its inventory.

    In contrast, Nordstrom said comparable sales at its off-price stores rose 3.9 percent during the nine-week ended Jan.5, while online sales jumped 18 percent during the period.

    Nordstrom said it expects full-year adjusted profit to be in the range of $3.55 to $3.65 per share, from the prior forecast of $3.50-$3.65.

    Department store retailers such as Macy’s Inc (M.N) and Kohl’s Corp (KSS.N) earlier this month reported disappointing holiday sales.

    Shares of Nordstrom, which will report results Feb. 28 after markets close, were down 3 percent in light volumes in trading after the bell.

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    'I lost two sons': Tunisians' journey by sea to Europe

    As frustration over the economy boils over in Tunisia, groups fear more and more youth will take risky treks to Europe.

      Ouardia neighbourhood, Tunis – Hamed Rhimi reaches into his coat’s breast pocket and pulls out a see-through plastic pouch, a little larger than the size of his hand.

      He shuffles through several folded up pieces of paper until he finds what he’s looking for: two official Tunisian identity cards.

      The country’s flag – red and white, with a crescent and star at the centre – is on the top left-hand corner of each card, while the unsmiling faces of his two sons stare back at him in black and white.

      “I didn’t know about their plan to leave the country in this way,” said the 53-year-old father of four, solemnly.

      Sitting outside the small, one-room workshop where he repairs old television sets and radios in Ouardia, a southern neighbourhood of Tunisia’s capital, he explained that his son, Soufiane, was 19 when he left Tunisia in 2008.

      Three years later, another son Wissam was also 19 when he took the same risky journey across the Mediterranean Sea as his older brother: both young men chose to migrate to Italy on boats with the help of people-smugglers.

      Soufiane left via Libya while Wissam took a vessel from the Tunisian port city of Sfax hoping to find high-paying jobs in European countries and make enough money to help support their family.

      They are just two of many Tunisians who have taken dangerous, undocumented journeys to Europe for years in search of work and a better life.

      While the crossings are certainly not new, some now fear the country’s increasingly dire economic situation and widespread lack of jobs will push even more young people to try to cross the Mediterranean once winter is over.

      Since he left Tunisia in 2011, Wissam’s whereabouts remain unknown, Rhimi said. His other son, Soufiane, has been in and out of jail because of drugs and other illegal activities.

      Despite this difficult history with undocumented migration, Rhimi said he can only watch as his youngest son Souhail, 17, contemplates making the same choice as his older brothers.

      He is almost resigned to the possibility that one day Souhail will be gone.

      “I’m tired,” Rhimi said. “I’m always explaining to [Souhail], ‘Look how I lost your two brothers.’ But he doesn’t understand what I’m saying because at night he sits with other kids in the neighbourhood and they talk about leaving for Italy.”

      Thousands reach Europe

      Most Tunisians leave for Europe from the country’s coastal cities, such as Sfax, with the help of smugglers who take them to Italy by boat.

      Others have been smuggled out of Libya where African asylum seekers have reported widespread torture and mistreatment. Recent media reports also revealed how some asylum seekers in Libya are being sold into slavery.

      After the 2011 revolution that toppled Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, tens of thousands of Tunisians migrated without permits to Europe, with most arriving on Italy’s Lampedusa island and the Italian mainland.

      The number of crossings stabilised in the years after the uprising, but there has been an uptick in undocumented crossings in recent months.

      Last October, about 2,700 people crossed to Italy from Tunisia, and almost all of them were Tunisian citizens, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) reported.

      Tunisia’s struggling economy and its high unemployment rate – about 35 percent of Tunisian youth are unemployed – have been blamed for pushing many to take desperate journeys abroad.

      This month, the government’s 2018 budget came into effect, raising taxes and the price of several basic goods, including gasoline and food.

      The austerity measures led to widespread protests across Tunisia and calls for the government to cancel the budget altogether.

      Economic and social issues are the main factors pushing youth to migrate to Europe, according to the Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights (TFESR), a research group.

      “The absence of development, the weak economic situation in Tunisia seven years after the revolution, the violation of economic and social rights, and political instability are the factors for migration,” the group said in a report last year.

      Most people leaving Tunisia are between the ages of 20 and 30 and “are uneducated youth who are unemployed or have precarious jobs”, TFESR said.

      Nicholas Noe, editor of MideastWire.com, a newswire that translates articles from the region into English, said Tunisia’s economic problems stem from a nexus of control that exists between security agencies such as the police, traditional mafias, and more than 100 families that hold monopolies over key industries.

      “If the [European Union] does not want to have another failed state on the Mediterranean, it’s going to have to decide whether [it wants] to tax hair gel and have social revolution, or address the fundamental problems at the elite level,” Noe told Al Jazeera.

      Widespread frustration

      One in three young Tunisian men living in rural parts of the country (33.4 percent) are not employed, in school or a training programme, according to 2014 World Bank figures.

      In Sidi Bouzid, the city where the 2011 revolution began, 24-year-old Mahran Alaoui said he did not even have enough money to approach the smugglers who could take him by boat to Europe.

      Sharing a cigarette with three friends on a city bench, Alaoui said he left school at age 13 and is currently unemployed. He sometimes does shifts as a server in a restaurant but said that only brings him 15 Tunisian dinars ($6) for 12 hours of work.

      “We’ve reached the peak of hopelessness,” he told Al Jazeera.

      “But at least we have a belief in God. Otherwise, we would have committed suicide.”

      Mohamed-Dhia Hammami, a Tunisian political analyst, told Al Jazeera that frustration has also increased among educated Tunisian youth, who have been unable to find jobs after graduating.

      He said several hundred Tunisians from the towns of Moulares and Mitlawi, in the western governorate of Gafsa, recently crossed the border without permits into Algeria in search of better opportunities.

      A few days later, several dozen others attempted to get to Algeria through the official border crossing, but they were turned back, Hammami said.

      “They are leaving a boat that is [sinking],” he said.

      Sidi Bouzid high school students Hayat Ardhawi, 17, and Mariam Tlili, 16, said they were already thinking about where they would move if they got the chance to leave Tunisia.

      “After I finish school I want to go to Canada,” Ardhawi said. She told Al Jazeera she wants to be a doctor, but “in Sidi Bouzid, there’s nothing”.

      Tlili said she wanted to live and work as a midwife in France. “We love Sidi Bouzid,” she added. “We’ll come back.”

      Search continues

      Back in Ouardia, Rhimi told Al Jazeera he spends all his free time searching for information about his sons.

      He hasn’t heard from Wissam since he left for Italy in 2011 and has only sporadic contact with Soufiane.

      He said he approached Tunisian authorities several times to try to locate Wissam and even left a DNA sample with a hospital in Sfax in case his son’s body is pulled from the sea.

      But so far, he has no new information. “Nobody is helping me,” Rhimi said.

      “But I lost two sons, so I don’t care. I’m not afraid of death… I’m carrying on.”


      Inside Story

      Has life changed for Tunisia after the revolution?

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      Driver of grey Kia strikes pedestrian then flees: Halifax police

      Halifax police are asking anyone with information on a hit and run in the city to come forward.

      Police say a man was struck by a car just before 2 p.m. Tuesday at the corner of Sackville and Queen streets.

      The man wasn’t seriously hurt but the vehicle involved in the collision fled, according to police.

      The vehicle is described as a grey Kia and it was last seen heading southbound on Queen.

      The driver was described as a man with dark hair.

      Anyone with information on the incident or the driver is asked to contact Halifax Regional Police or Crime Stoppers.

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      Gunfire, blasts heard as survivors of attack in Kenya flee

      NAIROBI (REUTERS) – Renewed gunfire and blasts were heard early on Wednesday (Jan 16) morning as authorities evacuated around 50 survivors of a militant attack on an upscale hotel and business complex in the Kenya capital of Nairobi, a first responder said.

      Those saved included a pregnant woman, the first responder said, and the daughter of a former lawmaker. Ex-MP Boni Khalwale tweeted that she had been saved more than 12 hours after Somali Islamists began their attack.

      Gunmen had blasted their way into the complex on Tuesday, killing at least 15 people and sending workers diving under desks to escape an attack claimed by Somalia-based Islamist group al Shabaab.

      By 1 am local time (6am Singapore time), 15 bodies had arrived at Chiromo Mortuary and more were expected, an attendant told Reuters.

      Identification papers indicated that 11 were Kenyan, one was American and one was British, he said. The other two were not carrying documents.

      A US State Department official confirmed one of the victims was American.

      “We can confirm that a US citizen was killed in the attack,” the official said without giving further details.

      Kenya’s Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i had said at 11 pm that all buildings at the scene had been secured and scores of people evacuated. But he did not comment on the attackers’ whereabouts and said security forces were still “mopping up”.

      Nairobi is a major hub for expatriates and the compound targeted contained offices of various international companies, in an echo of a deadly 2013 assault on a Nairobi shopping centre in the same neighbourhood.

      “The main door of the hotel was blown open and there was a human arm in the street severed from the shoulder,” said Serge Medic, the Swiss owner of a security company who ran to the scene to help when he heard of the attack from his taxi driver.

      A medic, who was armed, entered the building with a policeman and two soldiers, he said, but they came under fire and retreated. An unexploded grenade lay in the lobby, he said.

      “One man said he saw two armed men with scarves on their head and bandoliers of bullets,” Medic told Reuters, as gunfire echoed in the background.

      Kenya has often been targeted by al Shabaab, who killed 67 people at the Westgate shopping centre in 2013 and nearly 150 students at Garissa University in 2015. Al Shabaab says its attacks are revenge for Kenyan troops stationed inside Somalia, which has been riven by civil war since 1991.

      Earlier in the day, office workers had streamed from the complex, some jumping from windows. Security forces continued to escort small groups to safety into the evening, with some hustled into armoured vehicles amid sporadic gunfire.

      Foreign security advisers at the site scrambled to make sure their clients were safe.

      GUNFIRE AND EXPLOSIONS

      Kenyan police chief Joseph Boinnet said the attack began around 3 p.m. with an explosion targeting cars outside a bank followed by a detonation from a suicide bomber in the hotel lobby. As he spoke, a Reuters reporter on the scene reported heavy gunfire, then an explosion shortly afterwards.

      Surveillance video showed three attackers dressed in black running across the parking lot at 3:30 pm shortly followed by a fourth. At least two of the men were wearing green scarves in the close-up footage. One appeared to be wearing a green belt with grenades on it.

      Two Kenyans in their early 30s working with governance consultants Adam Smith International were among the dead, a family member said. Both had young families, she said.

      A Spanish national was among the injured, a Spanish diplomat told Reuters.

      The US Embassy had offered assistance, a State Department official said, adding all American diplomats were safe.

      A woman shot in the leg was carried out of the complex, and several men emerged covered in blood. Some office workers climbed out of windows. Many told Reuters they had to leave colleagues behind, still huddled under their desks.

      “There’s a grenade in the bathroom,” one officer yelled as police rushed out from one building.

      Geoffrey Otieno, who works at a beauty salon in the complex, said he heard a loud bang from something thrown inside the building, then saw shattered glass.

      “We hid until we were rescued,” he said.

      Meanwhile, Simon Crump, an Australian who works for an international firm in the complex, barricaded himself inside a spare room with two other people. They waited there for about 2-1/2 hours for help to arrive, their minds racing.

      “You’re hiding under a desk trying to figure out what’s going on, and you just don’t know, as there’s so much misinformation,” he said.

      When soldiers finally reached the group, they instructed them to put their phones away and put their hands in the air as they made their way to safety.

      INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES

      Al Shabaab, which wants to overthrow the weak, United Nations-backed Somali government and impose strict Islamic law, quickly said it was responsible.

      “We are behind the attack in Nairobi. The operation is going on,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, the group’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters by telephone in Somalia.

      According to its website, 14 Riverside is home to local offices of international companies including Colgate Palmolive , Reckitt Benckiser, Pernod Ricard, Dow Chemical and SAP, as well as the dusitD2 hotel, part of Thai group Dusit Thani.

      Kenya is a base for hundreds of diplomats, aid workers, businessmen and others operating around East Africa.

      The Australian Embassy is across the road from the compound.

      “I just started hearing gunshots, and then started seeing people running away raising their hands up and some were entering the bank to hide for their lives,” a woman working in a bank in the complex said, adding she heard two explosions.

      Kenyan television featured appeals for blood from local hospitals and showed police cordoning off the route to ensure vehicles could move quickly. Red Cross ambulances ferried victims away.

      Kenyan troops, concentrated in southern Somalia, originally entered the country to try to create a buffer zone along the shared border. They now form part of an African Union peacekeeping force.

      The attack took place as a Kenyan court prepares to sentence four men accused of aiding the Westgate mall attack.

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      Weapons cache, including loaded AK-47 magazines, found at home of Danforth shooter: police docs

      Nearly six months after the Danforth shooting, newly unsealed search warrants show that police discovered a cache of automatic weapons ammunition — including fully loaded AK-47 magazines — in shooter Faisal Hussain’s bedroom.

      The new details of the Danforth shooting investigation released Tuesday were previously redacted by the Crown and shed new light on the shooting that killed 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis and injured 13 others.

      The unsealed portions of the information to obtain orders (ITO) for Hussain’s home reveal that police found two fully loaded AK-47 magazines, two loaded 9 mm magazines, two loaded drum magazines, three fully loaded extended magazines, and additional types of shotgun ammunition.

      Police believed the discovery of the ammunition indicated the presence of other types of firearms. To date, investigators have only said that a handgun was found at the scene.

      “It is reasonable to believe that when fully loaded magazines are located, there would be a firearm or firearms parts in the residence,” investigators said according to the search warrants. “Locating that firearm and ammunition would provide further evidence of planning and preparation of the offence.”

      An empty gun box was also found in the bedroom, along with a long gun case, a number of cellphones and white powder that police suspected was cocaine.

      According to police, Hussain, 29, opened fire with a handgun in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood, a bustling area of bars and restaurants, on July 22. He shot himself in the head after exchanging gunfire with police.

      Global News has previously reported that the handgun found at the scene was a .40-calibre Smith & Wesson stolen in Saskatchewan in 2016.

      Conspiracy DVDs found

      As police continued to search for a motive, the newly released details of the investigation show that police seized videos about Iraq and 9/11 conspiracy theories in Hussain’s bedroom.

      The DVDs included films by American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones such as The Road to Tyranny, which promotes the claim of government involvement in Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. A popular right-wing conspiracist, Jones and his Infowars show were banned from Apple, Facebook and YouTube last year.

      Other DVDs found in the apartment were titled Loose Change and 9/11 in Plain Site. Both also offer up discredited conspiracies about al-Qaida’s attacks on the United States.

      The series of DVDs also included Terror Storm, Painful Deception, American Dictators, Iraq for Sale and Weapons of Mass Deception. A DVD with the handwritten title what is Islama was also found.

      The types of documentaries police found are popular in the right-wing anti-authority movement, said Prof. Barbara Perry, a hate crimes expert at the University of Ontario Institution of Technology.

      “That’s one of the common places where you’ll find these sorts of conspiracy theories,” she said.

      Conspiracies about the 9/11 attacks, which were orchestrated by Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization, also persist in the Arab world and countries such as Iran.

      The search turned up two receipts for $9,300 for cash payments to the Abad Co-operative Housing Society in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The receipts were labelled “mosque fund, membership fee, transfer, pillars and forms fees.”

      The court documents add to the portrait of Hussain who police described as a troubled loner captivated by violence and explosions. They show that while Hussain had no criminal record, he had several run-ins with the law that included an arrest for shoplifting two days before the shooting. He was let go unconditionally.

      Faisal Hussain is shown in a family handout photo.

      Police were also called to Hussain’s apartment three times in 2010 to deal with an “emotionally disturbed person,” according to the documents.

      The Toronto police and the province’s Special Investigations Unit are conducting separate investigations into the Danforth tragedy.

      Neither has offered a timeline on when their work might be completed.

      Toronto police did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new information and Monica Hudon, a spokeswoman for SIU, said their investigation was “ongoing.”

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      Ireland readies 'mega' no-deal Brexit legislation package

      DUBLIN (Reuters) – Ireland will begin pushing through a “mega” package of legislation next month to deal with the fallout from a no-deal Brexit if there is still a prospect of Britain leaving the European Union without a divorce deal in March.

      Ireland’s cabinet on Tuesday began to build upon the no-deal contingency plans it issued last month by seeking to reassure business of the availability of additional transport capacity and patients of the security of medicine supplies.

      Its preparations will be underpinned by one single emergency Brexit bill incorporating 17 new laws that Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney will, if required, begin moving through parliament in the final week of February.

      “We don’t want to have to do this of course, nobody wants a no-deal Brexit and everybody will work towards avoiding that but we also have to ensure that Ireland has done everything it can to protect itself and its citizens,” Coveney told a news conference.

      To allow officials to make preparations, the government will prioritise just six new proposed laws in other areas in the first half of the year compared to the 49 pieces of legislation given priority during the same period last year.

      As part of Tuesday’s plans, the Transport Ministry said sufficient capacity will be available for direct sailings from Ireland to continental EU ports as a potential alternative for the large amount of goods transited through the UK.

      Should demand for further capacity arise, the shipping sector can respond quickly to meet it, it added.

      However the department also said the scale of checks required in a no-deal Brexit would likely result in delays for goods moving through Irish ports, requiring measures to prevent congestion.

      The plans again did not touch on the central issue for Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit: How it can defend the single market without imposing physical infrastructure on its border with the British province of Northern Ireland.

      Related Coverage

      • Ireland says Britain's divorce deal cannot be renegotiated

      Transport Minister Shane Ross told the news conference he anticipated that there would be checks, but was interrupted by Coveney who said the best way to deal with the border issue was through the draft agreement struck by Brexit negotiators.

      “There are a number of areas where we haven’t published contingency plans, not least because people are voting this evening on how to deal with this issue,” Coveney said, speaking before British lawmakers resoundingly defeated the deal.

      “If Britain leaves without a deal, well then we obviously have to have difficult discussions with the European Commission and the UK in terms of how we protect the EU single market but we have deliberately not got into that detail because we have a way of dealing with this.”

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