British MPs Reject Second Referendum On Brexit Deal

Three amendments were rejected on Thursday by British MPs who had sought to lessen the government’s Brexit deal. The amendments included: press for a second referendum, enable Parliament find time for a different approach to Brexit; and wrestle control of part of the Brexit parliamentary timetable away from the government and into Parliament’s hands.

While the first was lost by a substantial margin of 249, the second came down to a margin of 16, and the third to a wafer-thin margin of 2.

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The developments marked a rare piece of good news for Prime Minister Theresa May during a week in which MPs first rejected her withdrawal deal and then thwarted an attempt by the government to rule out a no-deal, but only under certain circumstances.

The government will now make a third attempt to get its withdrawal deal passed by Parliament next week. As per the successful government motion on Thursday, if the withdrawal deal is passed at this stage, the government will push for a “one-off” extension till June 30. However, if it fails, it would be “highly likely” that a longer extension is needed, requiring the U.K. to take part in European parliamentary elections in May this year. Critics of the government believe that this strategy is an attempt by the government to pressure Brexiteers, who have twice voted down her withdrawal agreement, to cave in and back her deal next week to avoid the risk of a long delay or of losing Brexit altogether.

This came as U.S. President Donald Trump criticised the handling of the Brexit negotiations. “I’m surprised at how badly it has all gone from a stand point of negotiations but I gave the Prime Minister my ideas of how to negotiate it, she didn’t listen to that and that’s fine but it could have been negotiated in a different manner, frankly,” he remarked as he sat beside the Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.

MPs resoundingly rejected a second referendum on Brexit by a margin of 249. Many Labour MPs — including members of the party’s front bench — abstained from the vote. In a letter made public ahead of the vote, a number of Labour MPs explained that while they were “deeply committed” to securing a “People’s Vote” this was not the best opportunity to make that happen, noting that the official ‘People’s Vote’ campaign was not backing the motion. They believed the real opportunity lies at a different stage: when Ms. May’s withdrawal deal returns to the House of Commons next week, at which point the “Kyle-Wilson” amendment is expected to be put forward. This would approve the withdrawal deal so long as it is put to a public vote.

The amendment by the Labour front bench had attempted to require Brexit to be delayed in order to create time to find a solution on which there could be a parliamentary majority. Labour has accused the government of putting on a pretense of being prepared to negotiate because of Ms. May’s refusal to consider Labour’s proposals, which include remaining in a customs union and close single market alignment. “Members across the House are coming forward with proposals. Whether that is a permanent customs union, a public vote, Norway-plus or other ideas, let us as a House of Commons work to find a solution to deal with the crisis facing this country,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said earlier this week.

Alternative options

Britain’s opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn speaks in Parliament, following the vote on extending Brexit negotiating period in London, Britain,

amendment by Labour MP Hilary Benn (the son of the Labour politician Tony Benn) would have given Parliament control over the parliamentary timetable when the government attempts to persuade MPs to approve its withdrawal agreement next week. It would have created time for a series of alternative Brexit options or “indicative” votes. The government has said that it would only give MPs a series of indicative votes on alternative solutions if the withdrawal agreement is rejected again next week.

Speaker John Bercow had selected four amendments. Controversially, an amendment that would rule out a referendum and backed by the right-wing European Research Group was not selected by the speaker.

The government’s motion on Thursday said that it would try to seek an extension from the EU to the Brexit process but placed conditions. If Parliament passes the twice-rejected withdrawal agreement by March 20, then a “one-off” extension period would be requested for the period till June 30. If the deal isn’t passed, en it would be “highly likely” a longer extension would be needed requiring the UK to take part in European parliamentary elections in May this year.

The government earlier suffered another significant — and surprising — defeat on Wednesday night as MPs voted to reject a no-deal Brexit at any time, overriding the government’s initial motion that ruled out a no-deal exit but only on March 29 and left open the possibility of it taking place at a later stage. Wednesday’s votes revealed the extent to which MPs and even Cabinet members were willing to defy the government.

Several abstained during the key amendment on which the government was defeated on Wednesday, suggesting the extent to which authority has slipped from its hands.

However, an increasingly frustrated EU has expressed its scepticism about the value and meaning of these votes. For now under current legislation the default is for Britain to leave the EU without a deal on that date, unless a deal is struck, Article 50 is revoked or an extension is agreed by both sides. The EU has made clear that it will only agree to an extension if there is “credible” justification for it, and not simply for the political impasse in Parliament to continue. In addition, some Brexit supporters – such as Nigel Farage – have been lobbying EU countries to veto any attempt by Britain to push for an extension.

European Council President Donald Tusk indicated he would seek support within the remaining EU 27 countries were the UK to seek a long extension to “rethink its Brexit strategy and build consensus around it.”

In the UK the domestic pressure for consensus building has also been growing including – significantly – from the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond who – while delivering his “spring” statement on Britain’s borrowing and spending forecasts on Wednesday said MPs had a “solemn duty in the days ahead to put aside our differences and seek a compromise.”

Premier Li Keqiang: China Is Likely To Introduce More ‘Preferential Policies’ For Taiwan

China is upto introducing more “preferential policies” for Taiwan to give the same rights to the self- governed citizens as other Chinese citizens, said Premier Li Keqiang on Friday. 

Mr. Li said new initiatives would be implemented to invite people from Taiwan to “work hand-in-hand to realize our shared dream for the nation.” They follow 31 incentives recently introduced to bolster China’s argument that political unification should follow increasingly close economic ties.

The ruling Communist Party maintains that Taiwan is a part of China. It opposes Taiwan’s independence and formally says it seeks a “peaceful reunification.”

President Xi Jinping did not rule out the use of force during a January speech on cross-strait relations, when he proposed a “one country, two systems” approach akin to China’s current arrangement with the former British colony of Hong Kong. That would enable Taiwan to keep its own economic and legal system.

The suggestion has been rejected by Taiwan’s independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen, who said China must accept the continued existence of the Republic of China, the formal name of the former mainland government that fled to Taiwan in 1949. The U.S. switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but remains a key Taiwanese bulwark against China’s threats.

China appears pleased with the impact of last year’s “31 Measures,” and Mr. Li held open the possibility of even greater advantages, while offering no details.

“When people on both sides of the strait enjoy the same development opportunities, they will become closer and closer,” Mr. Li said at a news conference held on the closing day of the ceremonial legislature’s annual session.

Omung Kumar’s PM Narendra Modi Finally Receives A Release Date

Omung Kumar’s ‘PM Narendra Modi’ has finally received a release date. Vivek Oberoi leads the movie in the titular role and is scheduled to release on April 12, 2019. 

Taran Adarsh tweeted: “Release date finalised… PM Narendra Modi to release on April 12, 2019. Stars Vivek Oberoi in the lead role. Directed by Omung Kumar… Produced by Sandip Ssingh, Anand Pandit and Suresh Oberoi.” The film went on floors in January this year and it has extensively been shot across a variety of locations including Gujarat, Uttarakhand and Mumbai.

Speaking of his association with the project, film’s producer Sandip Ssingh said in a statement: “This is a very special film and a story that needs to be told. I hope this story of faith inspires the audiences. We are excited and happy to release the story of 1.3 billion people.”

Apart from Vivek Oberoi, PM Narendra Modi stars Boman Irani, who will be seen playing the role of business tycoon Ratan Tata. The film will also features veteran actress Zarina Wahab, who will play the role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s mother Heeraben Modi and TV actress Barkha Bisht Sengupta, who will be seen portraying PM Modi’s estranged wife Jashodaben Narendrabhai Modi in the film.

PM Narendra Modi is a biopic on the life of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and it will release in 23 languages across the country.

Indian Steel Titans Fight Over $1.5 Billion

A team of Lawyers and computer specialists from ArcelorMittal was at the London office of a company being controlled by the Ruia famil’s Essar Group. The move was a part of efforts to seize assets relating to a $1.5 billion US arbitration award. And a team working for Essar scion Prashant Ruia were out to stop them.

Lakshmi Mittal has opened a new front in the U.K. in a worldwide legal battle with the Ruia family. Set against the backdrop of an ongoing tussle for an Indian steelmaker, the billionaire has accused his fellow Indian tycoons of hiding funds through a series of sham transactions within the Essar Group.

So far not one cent of the U.S. award — owed to ArcelorMittal following the collapse of an iron-ore contract — has been paid. The case has moved to London, with Mittal, on one side, and Prashant Ruia, the eldest son of Essar founder Shashi Ruia on the other, awaiting a judge’s ruling on the legality of the search.

The Ruias must have thought they had “successfully hidden behind the battlements,” ArcelorMittal’s attorney, Anthony Peto, said at a court hearing last week. “They felt they were safe: they were not.”

For ArcelorMittal, Essar’s Lansdowne House offices may be the key to tracing the group’s assets. That’s because a company in the building, just minutes from London’s Ritz Hotel, had acted as a financial controller for various Essar units. Not only was a group server found on the premises, but company accounts pointing to where the money had gone.

But for Essar, which settled another London lawsuit earlier this year where creditors sought the seizure of a yacht and an oil refinery, the case is an example of judicial overreach. A U.K. court should have no jurisdiction over an American award against a company incorporated in Mauritius, Essar Steel’s attorneys argued.

“This is a case of the English court being asked to act not just as the world’s policeman, but as its detective agency as well,” Essar Steel’s lawyer Daniel Toledano said.

Last week’s hearing “was the first opportunity for those Essar entities (and individuals) to fully argue their position in opposition to them,” a spokesman for Essar said in an email. “Judgment on these matters is still awaited and as such we are unable to comment further.”

ArcelorMittal’s team faced obstacles from the start of their search. One employee, Rupal Popat, sent two emails to Sanjiv Radia urging him to hide documents and a laptop. Radia “reprimanded Popat for sending the email” but Popat then sent the second message anyway, Peto said. Attorneys for Radia and Popat declined to comment.

The employees at Lansdowne House were all “dancing to a tune played by the Ruias,” Peto said, arguing that Popat was unlikely to have acted on her own initiative.

In court documents, the British Essar unit sought to downplay the emails, calling them the work of a junior employee.

“Essar Capital Services does not seek — how could it? — to excuse those suggestions which were quite improper,” Paul Stanley, a lawyer for the U.K. subsidiary, said in his submission. “Her suggestions were not acted on; documents were produced.”

The dispute is taking place alongside a yearlong battle in India, where Lakshmi Mittal, India’s third-richest man, is nearing a $5.9 billion acquisition of an insolvent steelmaker formerly owned by the Ruias. The family is still seeking to challenge the deal in court.

Meanwhile the ruling in the Minnesota arbitration case, which ArcelorMittal is trying to enforce in London, arose out of a terminated contract to supply iron-ore pellets. But Essar Steel Ltd., which had assumed the liabilities of the U.S. contract, has said it couldn’t pay. It now has less than $2.5 million in assets.

One document uncovered in the U.K. search tells a different story, according to ArcelorMittal’s lawyer. Essar Steel’s 2016 filing of its accounts described how the firm reclassified almost $1.5 billion in assets that put them out of reach of any potential creditor, Peto said.

“They couldn’t really cover up the existence of the $1.5 billion lie,” he alleged.

Over 10 Redmi Phones To Receive Android Pie Update

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi has now updated its roadmap for the Android 9.0 Pie update that will reach a list of Mi and Redmi phones. The updated roadmap was featured in a post on the official MIUI forums and shows that the company is bringing Android Pie to ten smartphones. 

There are models such as the Mi Mix 2, Mi 6, Redmi 6A, Redmi 6, and Mi Note 3 that are slated to receive the Android Pie update in the second quarter of 2019. 

However, the handsets including the Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Y2 aka Redmi S2 are planned to get the next Android update sometime in the current quarter only.

As per the updated post on the Chinese MIUI forums, Xiaomi has planned to bring the Android Pie update to the Redmi Note 5 and Redmi Y2 aka Redmi S2 in the first quarter of this year that would be sometime before March, while the Mi Mix 2, Mi6, Redmi 6A, Redmi 6, Mi Note 3 are set to receive the new Android version in the second quarter of this year — by June. The post also mentions that the Mi 9 transparent edition, Mi 6X, and Redmi Note 6 Pro are also set to receive the Android Pie update, but a concrete schedule is yet to be announced. Moreover, the update is applicable for devices running the MIUI China ROM or the MIUI Global ROM and is irrespective of MIUI version.

Back in January, the same MIUI forum post revealed that Xiaomi is set to bring the Android Pie update to the Redmi Note 5, Redmi 6 Pro, and Redmi Y2 in the first quarter. It is also worth pointing out that the Chinese smartphone maker is open to further update the roadmap-revealing post as and when it will prepare Android Pie rollout for other models.

Xiaomi last month kicked off the global testing of the Android Pie update for the Redmi Note 5 Pro, Redmi Note 6 Pro, and Redmi Y2/ Redmi S2. It also brought Android Pie to Android One-based Mi A1 late last year and released the new Android version with MIUI 10 on top for the   Poco F1. 

Generally, Xiaomi isn’t as fast in delivering newer Android versions as companies such as HMD Global are. It, however, recently started taking Android updates seriously — alongside bringing newer MIUI iterations.

The arrival of Android Pie is certainly something big for the users of the listed Xiaomi models. But nonetheless, Google has recently released the first beta build of Android Q and is looking forward to working with handset manufacturers to bring the new Android version on their devices.

Samsung’s Next Android Go Smartphone Revealed

A leaked press render has unveiled Samsung’s next Android Go smartphone. The Galaxy A2 Core will be the first Android Go phone in the Galaxy A series. The device has already been listed in the support section of company’s website. The leaked render shows the date as March 22 on the lovk screen, thus one can expect it to go official by then. 

From the front, the Galaxy A2 Core looks pretty similar to the Galaxy J2 Core, big bezels with the Samsung logo included. The rear is a bit different, with the camera module shifted to the top left like many recent budget and mid-range Samsung phones and a speaker grill just below. We also know basic Galaxy A2 Core specs thanks to its appearance on the Geekbench website last month: It has 1GB of RAM and is powered by Samsung’s Exynos 7870 chipset.

The Geekbench listing had the Galaxy A2 Core running Android 8.1 Oreo, and while we hope Samsung launches the device with Android Pie out of the box, we wouldn’t hold our breath. And yes, like Samsung’s previous Android Go phones, the Galaxy A2 Core doesn’t come with stock Android. It will have drastically lower functionality compared to standard Galaxy smartphones, though.

We can expect the Galaxy A2 Core to be launched in India and some of the neighboring markets. South Africa should be on the list as well, as the country’s local Samsung website has support pages for the website. 

Thomson Introduces India’s First 40-Inch 4K Smart TV At ₹20,999

French firm Thomson has brought in India’s only 40-inch 4K smart TV, fulfilling its promise of delivering ‘Friendly Technology’ at affordable prices. This smart TV costs ₹20,999 and will be available for purchase online on Flipkart commencing from 16th March at 12 AM. 

Last year, Thomson re-entered the Indian market after an almost 15-year gap and since then has witnessed significant growth in demand from online consumers, who are savvy and informed about choices. Having set an ambitious target of 6-7 per cent market share by 2020, Thomson is banking on e-commerce as a tool to firm up its foothold in India and further establish the brand. Research suggests that the potential for sales in India is around 14 million sets a year, with Smart TVs accounting for about 65 per cent of this.

This is Thomson TV’s 4th new product launch in the smart TV category over the last year and will further cement the brand’s position as the frontrunner in the online TV sale. With this launch, the brand continues to push the envelope and live up to its promise of giving the consumer a new and unique experience.

The TV plays 4K YouTube videos, has 6 pre-loaded apps, runs on Android 7.1, has support for 18 languages and a lot more. The TV supports both Netflix and Amazon Prime and has the Easy Share cast feature. Lastly, the brand uses a Samsung display panel.

OnePlus, Amazon India Announce Promotional Campaign- March Madness

OnePlus in partnership with Amazon India has once again made an announcement of a promotional campaign, named “March Madness”, which begins today. The campaign will end on March 21. The site will offer six months of no- cost EMI option for customers and they can get ₹20,000 cashback as Amazon Pay balance on buying OnePlus 6T. One can also avail an immediate five per cent discount using Axis bank debit and credit EMI.

The company has also partnered with Reliance Jio and is offering an instant cashback of Rs 5,400 and up to 3TB Jio 4G data. You can also get free accidental and Liquid Damage Protection insurance on opening a Kotak 811 account. As for the pricing, the OnePlus 6T currently retails at Rs 37,999 for the 6GB RAM/128GB storage, Rs 41,999 for the 8GB/128GB configuration and Rs 45,999 for the 8GB/256GB variant.

OnePlus 6T specifications, features

To recall, the OnePlus 6T is the company s 2018 flagship smartphone, which offers the trendy in-display fingerprint tech as well as Face Unlock for security. It is equipped with a 6.41-inch AMOLED display. The panel is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 6. The smartphone is built around a Snapdragon 845 octa-core chipset aided by up to 10GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. There is also Warp Charge 30 that can reportedly charge 50 percent of the battery in about 20 minutes. It is powered by a 3,700mAh battery under the hood. It offers dual cameras at the back and a single camera on the front.

OnePlus has recently seized 36 percent of the market share, as per Counterpoint’s report. OnePlus has even maintained its number one position in the premium smartphone market for the third consecutive quarter, the brand has captured a market share of 36 percent, as per the mentioned source. Besides, the company is rumored to launch the OnePlus 7 smartphone with a pop-up selfie camera mechanism, and triple rear camera setup. Furthermore, it also showcased a prototype of its 5G smartphone at MWC 2019 in Barcelona.

Apple Announces WWDC 2019 Schedule, Conference To Kick Off On June 3

Apple has officially announced that it is going to kick off Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 3, 2019. The conference will be a five-day-long developer- focused conference lasting till June 7 at McEnery Convention Centre in San Jose. 

As usual, the Cupertino giant is expected to bring the new versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS at WWDC 2019.

 The company already has more than 1.4 billion devices on its platforms. The tagline for this year’s WWDC is “Write code. Blow minds.” Apple has also developed an image that shows a robot having a head exploded by various developer tools, including Swift and Xcode.

In the list of developments that are expected to take place at WWDC, iOS 13 is likely to be the showstopper. The new iOS version is expected to bring a system-wide dark mode — somewhat similar to how macOS 10.14 mojave brought a dark mode last year. Apple was also recently reported to have some AirPower- specific features that could be a part of iOS 13. Moreover, the new iOS build is speculated to bring a new experience for iPad users and a list of improvements to the file system management.

Aside from iOS 13, Apple would announce macOS 10.15 as the new macOS version at WWDC 2019. The company is also expected to bring watchOS 6 and tvOS 13.

Apple is also in the headlines for having plans to unify the experience on iOS and macOS. A Bloomberg report last month claimed that the company had an ultimate goal to bring a multistep initiative, codenamed “Marzipan”, that is planned for 2021 to help developers build apps that can work not just on iPhone and iPad but also on Mac machines, without any additional efforts.

According to the press release announcing the dates of WWDC 2019, Apple is aiming to showcase its new offerings to developers who are “creating new experiences in areas including machine learning, augmented reality, health and fitness” and other key areas. The event will also be a place for technical sessions, hands-on labs, and various speaking slots where the developer community will be able to learn new things and brush up their coding skills using new and updated tools.

“Our developers are incredibly passionate about creating the next generation of mind-blowing experiences for the world through apps. We can’t wait to get together with them and share what’s next,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, in the release.

It is worth mentioning here that the official schedule of WWDC 2019 is in line with what was spotted on the 2019 events calendar from the City of San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs last month.

The registration window for the event tickets is open through the WWDC website until March 20 at 5pm PDT (March 21 at 5:30am IST). However, tickets will be issued through a random selection process, and eligible developers will be notified by March 21 at 5pm PDT (March 22 at 5:30am IST). Each ticket will notably cost $1,599 (roughly Rs. 1,10,800) to developers attending the conference.

Apple will live stream WWDC 2019 through the official WWDC app as well as through the Apple Developer website. Moreover, the company will offer as many as 350 scholarships to students and members of all STEM organisations who will get a chance to earn a free ticket and lodging for WWDC.