Spain’s constitutional court has moved to stop the Catalan government making a unilateral declaration of independence by suspending the regional parliament session in which the results of Sunday’s referendum were due to be discussed. On Thursday, the court upheld a challenge by Catalonia’s Socialist party – which opposes secession from Spain – ruling that allowing the Catalan parliament to meet on Monday and potentially declare independence would violate the rights of the party’s MPs. Catalonia's political turmoil prompting firms to consider relocating . Banks Sabadell and Caixa among first to respond amid fears about access to rest of Spain and EU if independence is declared The court warned that any session carried out in defiance of its ban would be “null”, and added that the parliament’s leaders could face criminal action if they ignored the court order. Carme Forcadell, president of the Catalan parliament, said Monday’s session had not yet been formally convened, but that the court’s decision to suspend it “harms freedom of expression and the right of initiative of members of this parliament and shows once more how the courts are being used to solve political problems.” The Catalan government is understood to be meeting to discuss its response to the latest move by the court. It has previously ignored the constitutional court’s rulings, not least its order to suspend the referendum itself. In a television address on Wednesday evening, the Catalan president, Carles Puigdemont, repeated his calls for mediation and dialogue with the Spanish government, but said the results of the vote would be put before parliament. “On Sunday we had a referendum under the most difficult circumstances and set an example of who we are,” he said. “Peace and accord is part of who we are. We have to apply the results of the referendum. We have to present the results of the referendum to parliament.”
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Sunday, October 1, 2017
Saturday, September 30, 2017
SPAIN - Police have sealed off more than half of the 2,315 schools in Catalonia designated as polling stations for a banned independence referendum as tensions rise ahead of the controversial ballot. Tens of thousands of Catalans are expected to vote in the ballot, which will have no legal status as it has been blocked by Spain’s constitutional court. Madrid has sent thousands of police to the north-eastern region to stop it taking place. A Spanish government source said 163 schools designated as voting centres had been occupied by families as images of families including children in sleeping bags have emerged. Although the polls say the independence side would not win a referendum, Catalans, watching Brexit, have seen how easy it is for polls to be wrong.
People supporting the referendum have camped out overnight in schools in an effort to prevent an order by the head of the Catalan regional police to evacuate and close polling stations by 6am on Sunday. Voting is due to begin at 9am. Catalan police have been instructed to empty the buildings by Sunday morning, but not to use violence to remove the people occupying schools.
The police in the region issued an ultimatum to the separatists, parents and children who are occupying schools to leave by 6am on Sunday – a deadline designed to prevent the vote from taking place, since the polls are supposed to open three hours later. Spain’s foreign minister, Alfonso Dastis, said on Saturday the Catalan government’s plan was anti-democratic and runs “counter to the goals and ideals the European Union” is trying to advance. “What they are pushing is not democracy. It is a mockery of democracy, a travesty of democracy,” he added.
Monday, September 11, 2017
When Truls Gulowsen began campaigning in the 1990s, telling Norway it had both a moral obligation and an economic interest in phasing out the industry that has made it rich was not what might be called a vote winner. But as Norwegians go to the polls on Monday, the future of their country’s giant oil and gas business is a major electoral issue – with parties that back curbs or even a shutdown of the industry set to play a key role in post-election coalition-building.
“The public mood has changed,” said Gulowsen, who heads Greenpeace Norway. “Something’s really happening. For the first time, our national dependency on oil, our responsibility as oil pushers to the rest of the world, are real questions.” With the ruling rightwing bloc of parties and the opposition neck and neck, smaller parties may find themselves kingmakers “It looks like it’s going to be very, very close,” said the election analyst Svein Tore Marthinsen. “Both major parties are declining and the landscape is fragmenting – we could have nine parties in parliament, a record. The final outcome is wide open.”
Public opinion certainly is split. “I think the government’s done OK,” said Harald Bergh, 73, a retired engineer. “They’ve spent wisely, cut taxes, kept us afloat. And no one should touch the oil industry – it’s been our salvation.”
Monday, September 4, 2017
The Turkish government has accused Angela Merkel and Martin Schulz of practising the politics of populism and exclusion after the German election frontrunners agreed that the EU should break off negotiations over future Turkish membership. In a televised debate on Sunday evening, the German chancellor said she did not believe Turkey should become a member of the EU, and that she would take up with her EU partners the issue of ending accession talks with Ankara. Schulz, her Social Democrat rival in elections on 24 September, said if he became the next chancellor, he would be much more candid than Merkel in his criticism of Turkey’s contravention of human rights under the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turkey, he said, had “crossed all the red lines” and therefore it could no longer become a member of the EU. He added that as German chancellor he would break off EU accession talks with Ankara. İbrahim Kalın, a spokesman for Erdoğa, said Merkel and Schulz had focused on Turkey in their television encounter – which was watched by between a third and a half of German voters – to divert attention from more pressing problems. “It is not a coincidence that our president, Erdoğan, was a main topic of the debate,” Kalın tweeted, criticising German politicians’ “indulgence in populism”. He continued: “Germany and Europe’s attacks on Turkey/Erdoğan, in ignoring necessary and pressing problems, are reflections of the narrowing of their horizons. “We hope the problematic atmosphere that made Turkish-German relations the victim of this narrow political horizon will end.” Merkel’s stance was more reserved than Schulz’s, largely because of her dependence on Ankara abiding by a deal to keep hundreds of thousands of migrants inside Turkey’s borders in return for financial aid, visa-free travel for Turks in Europe as well as the promise of faster EU membership talks.Turkey, he said, had “crossed all the red lines” and therefore it could no longer become a member of the EU. He added that as German chancellor he would break off EU accession talks with Ankara.
İbrahim Kalın, a spokesman for Erdoğa, said Merkel and Schulz had focused on Turkey in their television encounter – which was watched by between a third and a half of German voters – to divert attention from more pressing problems.
“It is not a coincidence that our president, Erdoğan, was a main topic of the debate,” Kalın tweeted, criticising German politicians’ “indulgence in populism”.
He continued: “Germany and Europe’s attacks on Turkey/Erdoğan, in ignoring necessary and pressing problems, are reflections of the narrowing of their horizons.
“We hope the problematic atmosphere that made Turkish-German relations the victim of this narrow political horizon will end.”
Merkel’s stance was more reserved than Schulz’s, largely because of her dependence on Ankara abiding by a deal to keep hundreds of thousands of migrants inside Turkey’s borders in return for financial aid, visa-free travel for Turks in Europe as well as the promise of faster EU membership talks.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Gerhard Schröder defied critics on Wednesday night, insisting that joining the board of Russian energy giant Rosneft was entirely up to him.
"I will do this. This is about my life and I decide – not the German press," he said in his usual candid manner. He was speaking at an election campaign event for the Social Democrats (SPD) in the northern town of Rotenburg on the Wümme. He added that he could not see a problem and that "I'm not going to allow anyone to make it into one."Schröder, who was German chancellor from 1998 to 2005, was harshly criticized for his decision by the media, but also – among others - by his successor Angela Merkel as well as Martin Schulz from his own SPD party. Rosneft has been subject to EU sanctions due to Russia's unlawful annexation of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula. Schröder, however, stressed that getting involved with the world's biggest oil company was in Germany's interest. "I stand by what I've said before – that it's not wise to isolate our big neighbor Russia both politically and economically," he said adding that his critics were apparently interested in a new Cold War with Russia. He said he was "fed up" with the criticism of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, saying that compared to US President Donald Trump, Putin was "highly rational" and that "demonizing Russia" would get us nowhere.He emphasized that Rosneft was an international company and not "the extended arm of the Russian government." Russia owns just over 50 percent of Rosneft. The former German chancellor is known for his connection to Russia – he once dubbed Russian President Vladimir Putin a "flawless Democrat." After he lost to Merkel in the 2005 election, he joined the Nordstream pipeline consortium, which is controlled by Russia's Gazprom. He has since switched to join an extension of the original pipeline, known as Nordstream 2. Schröder is due to be formally elected to Rosneft's supervisory board on September 29. It is not clear yet whether he will lead the board or just become a member.
Saturday, August 26, 2017
A US appeals court panel has said that federal officials must reconsider their decision not to regulate the size of airline seats as a safety issue. In a ruling on Friday, one of the judges called it “the case of the incredible shrinking airline seat”. The Flyers Rights passenger group challenged the Federal Aviation Administration in court after the agency rejected its request to write rules governing seat size and the distance between rows of seats. New York senator calls for FAA action over 'shrinkage' of airplane seats A three-judge panel for the federal appeals court in Washington said the FAA had relied on outdated or irrelevant tests and studies before deciding that seat spacing was a matter of comfort, not safety. The judges sent the issue back to the FAA and said the agency must come up with a better-reasoned response to the group’s safety concerns. “We applaud the court’s decision, and the path to larger seats has suddenly become a bit wider,” said Kendall Creighton, a spokeswoman for Flyers Rights. The passenger group says small seats bunched too close together slow down emergency evacuations and raise the danger of travellers developing vein clots. FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said the agency was considering the ruling and its next steps. He said the FAA considers the spacing between seat rows when testing to make sure airliners can be evacuated safely.
Friday, August 25, 2017
The square, one block from Rome’s main train station, was strewn with mattresses, overturned rubbish bins and broken plastic chairs. Hung on the building was a sheet made into a banner saying: “We are refugees, not terrorists,” in Italian. A small fire burned on the pavement and a sheet hanging from a first-floor window was set alight by squatters inside. Witnesses who arrived at the square after the clearance operation described a scene of carnage. “When I arrived at about 9am trash was scattered all over. About 50 people were still in the square, which had been partially closed down to traffic in the meantime. They were sad, frustrated and with no idea where to go,” said Francesco Conte, founder of TerminiTv, an online channel based in Rome’s Termini train station. About 100 people had occupied the square since Saturday, when most of about 800 squatters were evicted from an adjacent office building they had occupied for about five years.Police said the refugees had refused to accept lodging offered by the city and that the operation was also necessitated by the risk presented by the presence of cooking gas canisters and other flammable materials in the square, which is surrounded by apartment buildings. Most of the squatters were Eritreans and Ethiopians who had been granted asylum. Many have been in the country for up to a decade. They ran the building as a self-regulating commune that outsiders were not permitted to enter. The refugees have previously complained that the accommodation offered to them elsewhere is not of a permanent nature, and that moving would result in the community they have established being split up. The area around the square is full of shops owned by the refugees’ compatriots.
Saturday, August 19, 2017
A bizarre interview that Bannon gave to the liberal magazine the American Prospect – in which he claimed there was no military solution for North Korea, called the far right a “collection of clowns”, and said the left’s focus on racism would allow him to “crush the Democrats” – may have altered the balance of the power inside the West Wing. For an aide long suspected of leaking freely about rivals, Bannon’s excuse that he thought the call was off the record was not helpful. Bannon’s departure leaves a major void in the White House, depriving it of a man once seen as Cardinal Richelieu in cargo pants, an unkempt schemer adept at manipulating the president, who was famously depicted as a childlike naif to his aide’s Grim Reaper in a Saturday Night Live sketch. The characterization – summed up in a Time magazine cover that hailed “the great manipulator” – reportedly annoyed the famously thin-skinned president and contributed to his fall from grace. Josh Green, the author of the book Devil’s Bargain about Bannon and Trump, told the Guardian: “Bannon may be the only person in the White House with clear and distinct politics of his own.” His absence means more power and influence for figures such as Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and the national economic council chair, Gary Cohn, who have few, if any, ideological ties to the Republican party and the conservative movement. Bannon has long occupied an unusual position in the White House. In an administration that one outside ally compared to Baskin Robbins, “composed of 31 flavors,” Bannon represented “the nationalist Trump coalition” as opposed to “a lot of people that were not only not Trump supporters but anti-Trump people”. One Bannon ally told the Guardian that the West Wing had seen a “four-on-one fight” recently, with Bannon taking on a coalition of Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Cohn and national security adviser HR McMaster. In the ally’s eyes Bannon represented the populist “burn it all down” path while others in the administration wanted Trump to “move the center” and work with the establishment. A White House source claimed to Axios: “His departure may seem turbulent in the media, but inside it will be very smooth. He has no projects or responsibilities to hand off.” Bannon had also stood out as the lone White House staffer to defend Trump’s comments on Charlottesville in recent days.
Tuesday, August 15, 2017
President Donald Trump finally condemned the “evil” of “racist violence” in Charlottesville on Monday, two days after a white supremacist rally in the Virginia town that left three people dead. After mounting criticism at his failure to speak out against white supremacist groups, Mr Trump addressed the nation from the White House and warned those behind Saturday’s riots that they will be held criminally responsible. And, after widespread cross-party anger at his initial response – in which he condemned violence “on many sides” – the president on Monday delivered a more measured response, in which he called out neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan. “To anyone who acted criminally at this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable.” He described the rally on Saturday as an “egregious display of hatred and violence” which, he said, “has no place in America.” He continued: “Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans “We are a nation founded on the premise that all are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our creator, we are equal under the law, and we are equal under our Constitution. "Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America. ” Mr Trump paid tribute to Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old who died when James Fields rammed his car into a group of anti-hate protesters. He also commended the two Virginia state troopers killed when their helicopter crashed on Saturday. “These three fallen Americans embody the goodness and decency of our nation. “In times such as these, America has always shown its true character.”Reading from a teleprompter, the president's remarks were seen as a belated condemnation of the white supremacists who politicians across the mainstream US political spectrum held responsible for the mayhem in Charlottesville.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
The precursor to the EU was set up in 1958, as the continent’s leaders vowed to make another war between them all but impossible. The euro came in 1999, when a group of 11 countries jettisoned marks, francs and lire and turned control of interest rates over to a new central bank. The common currency’s scale provided exchange-rate stability and better access to world markets. It did not, however, impose uniform financial discipline; to avoid surrendering national sovereignty, politicians largely sidestepped a unified approach to bank regulation and government spending. To the extent that there were rules, they were flouted. The events that brought the euro to its knees came during the global rout in 2009, when Greece came clean and said its budget deficit was twice as wide as forecast. Investors started dumping assets of the most indebted nations and borrowing costs soared. The shared euro made it impossible to devalue individual currencies of weaker economies, limiting options for recovery. Politicians lurched through bailouts for Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Cyprus plus a rescue of banks in Spain. The panic fueled fears of a breakup as fragile banks and their holdings of government bonds exposed the common currency’s vulnerabilities. The firestorm abated in July 2012, when European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pledged to do “whatever it takes” to save the euro.
Friday, July 14, 2017
PARIS - President Donald Trump acknowledged that France and the US had “occasional disagreements” but said that would not disrupt a friendship that dates back to the American Revolution. Macron acknowledged sharp differences with Trump over climate change. But he said he and the US president were able to discuss how best to combat “a global threat with enemies who are trying to destabilise us”, with a focus on counter-terrorism. President Trump said that his recent meeting with Putin had led to a ceasefire in a part of southern Syria, and said that he was working on “a second ceasefire in a very rough part of Syria”. He suggested that other parties would become involved in the deal, saying “and all of a sudden you will have no bullets fired in Syria”. As Trump began his 24-hour tour of Paris, the two leaders’ body language was under close scrutiny. Macron chose to move on from the aggressive handshake he offered the US leader at their initial meeting in May, instead styling himself as Trump’s new “straight-talking” best friend on the international stage. the invitation to the US president to attend this year’s Bastille Day celebrations was in the pipeline long before both Macron and Trump’s election because 2017 marks the 100th anniversary of the entry by the US into the first world war.
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
The Italian Chamber of Deputies recently organized the conference called "Italy's public debt in the Eurozone", which saw experts in the restructuring of public debt, academics, journalists and investment fund managers. In a participant's opinion, Jens Nordvig, head of department at Nomura Securities and former banker at Goldman Sachs, "Italy is now the most important country in Europe". The reason is of course, not just the size of its economy, but also the very high level of its public debt, which nobody seems to be able to find a solution for. The latest official data, of April 2017, shows that public debt has reached 2.27 trillion Euros, a new record, after increasing 37.2 billion over last year's similar period. The aggregated budget deficit after the first six months of 2017 was 50.2 billion Euros, 22.5 billion Euros higher YOY, according to Reuters, as over half of the deficit of June 2017, of 8.2 billion Euros, was the "result" of the state's involvement in the liquidation of the two banks in the Veneto region. A new record, once again a negative one, was seen when it comes to Italy's position within Target2 (Trans-European Automated Real-time Gross settlement Express Transfer), the real-time settlement system for payments in Euros. ECB data of May 2017, shows that Italy's deficit within the Target2 system has reached 421.6 billion Euros, way above the level recorded during the sovereign debt crisis, a phenomenon which reflects the acceleration of capital outflows. Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that the European authorities have "allowed" Italy to violate the banking resolution regulations that recently came into effect, even though that represents a new factor "to divide Europe", according to Reuters.
Sunday, July 9, 2017
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany (pop. 1.7 million), a major hub situated on the River Elbe, nestled between the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony. Although a major port, it lies 130km inland from the North Sea.
Why? As an outward-looking city, Hamburg is an ideal location, says Angela Merkel. It has maintained trading links around the world for centuries, and today is home to the headquarters of industrial heavyweights Airbus and Unilever, among others. It can also boast at being ranked 18th among world cities for its livability.
Famous for? A city of bridges (around 2,500), Hamburg boasts what was once the world’s tallest building, the 122-metre Church of St Nicholas. Bombed heavily by Allied forces in WW2, the city recovered to become once again an economic and cultural powerhouse, where the Beatles served their apprenticeship, and where museums and opera go hand in hand with sport and radical politics. And there’s the Reeperbahn.
Security? Some 20,000 officers have been drafted in from around Germany and beyond to address the twin challenges of potential terror attack and political protest. Temporary courtrooms and cells have been built alongside a mass holding facility for as many as 400 detainees at a time - at a cost of €750,000. A planned mass protest camp in the city’s main park has been banned.
Saturday, July 8, 2017
The IMF – historically the world’s foremost cheerleader of austerity – admitted that it was based on a false prospectus: these policies do more harm than good. Simon Wren-Lewis of Oxford University said that the issue was not whether attempts to reduce the deficit had damaged the economy, but “how much GDP has been lost as a result”. Amartya Sen said that while austerity “deepened Europe’s economic problems, it did not help in the aimed objective of reducing the ratio of debt to GDP to any significant extent”. Richard Portes at London Business School says that even the UK’s sluggish growth under the Conservatives is down to the “semi-covert” backing away from George Osborne’s initially brutal plans, which would have done even more harm. Paul Krugman wrote that in the post-crisis economy “the government does everyone a service by running deficits and giving frustrated savers a chance to put their money to work … deficit spending that expands the economy is, if anything, likely to lead to higher private investment than would otherwise materialise”. All this has led Joseph Stiglitz to remark that it’s “remarkable there are still governments, including here in the UK, that still believe in austerity”.
Wednesday, July 5, 2017
Britain has continued to outrank other European countries as a technology investment hub despite last year’s Brexit vote. Research from London & Partners, an arm of the mayor’s office designed to promote the city, said £2.4bn of venture capital funding had been put into British technology companies since last year’s referendum. This was more than double the VC investment in Germany and three times what it was in France.
In London, which accounts for the majority of venture-led tech funding in the UK, funding rose to £1.8bn across 544 deals, against £775m for Berlin and £557m for Paris.
The figures appear to defy predictions made before the referendum that funding would dry up in the event of a Leave vote and that start-ups would flee for the continent. The technology industry, which employs a disproportionate number of EU nationals, had campaigned heavily against Brexit, but has since focused on boosting the number of specialist tech workers who are granted visas since the vote. London & Partners, which collated data from deal tracker Pitchbook, said the first half of 2017 had seen a record £1.1bn of venture capital funding into London start-ups. For the UK as a whole it was £1.4bn, the third biggest on record.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
The European Central Bank has greenlit the liquidation of Veneto Banca and Banca Popolare di Vicenza, after they have repeatedly violated the "they have repeatedly violated the capitalization requirements", according to a press release sent on Friday to the European institution. The ECB showed that the two European banks "are at risk of collapsing", and the Single Resolution Board (SRB) said that "the conditions for the resolution of the two banks have not been met", and "banks will be liquidated according to the Italian bankruptcy procedures". The situation of Veneto and of Banca Popolare di Vicenza has been watched closely by the ECB since 2014, when significant capital deficits were uncovered. The italian government will pay to Intesa Sanpaolo 5.2 billion Euros in order to acquire the good assets of Veneto Banca and Banca Popolare di Vicenza, Reuters announced, Sunday night, after the authorities in Rome have spent their entire weekend drafting an emergency ordinance concerning the procedure for the liquidation of the two banks.
Sunday, July 2, 2017
Liviu Dragnea "swore", in December 2016, on the electoral program, which then became the governing program and the "Bible of the PSD": he guaranteed, in a TV Show, that he would abide by it or else he would resign. Liviu Dragnea did not abide by the electoral program.
Liviu Dragnea did not resign, instead he changed the government....Along with the government, he also replaced the "Bible of the PSD". The new proposals of the PSD, published on the night prior to the investiture, have overturned the business environment. All the companies in Romania will pay, starting with January 1st, 2018, a turnover tax instead of the profit tax, which will disappear, according to the new governing program of the PSD-ALDE coalition. Also, according to the new proposal, the minimum wage level in Romania in the coming years would be 2,000 lei in 2018, 2,200 lei in 2019 and 2,400 lei in 2020, and for those with higher education it would be 2,300 lei in 2018, 2,640 lei in 2019 and 3,000 lei in 2020. According to the governing program, the solidarity contribution will be introduced starting with January 1st, 2018, as well as an additional tax on consumer products whose consumption has a major negative impact on the health of the population. Analysts said that the government is blowing up the economy, businesspeople were shocked. The new ministers swore on the Bible to offer all their power for the material and spiritual progress of the Romanian people. So help them God!
Thursday, June 22, 2017
Theresa May told European leaders last night. The Prime Minister made a “fair and serious offer” to European leaders in Brussels as she pledged that all those who arrived in Britain before she triggered Article 50 in March will be entitled to stay.
May also said that she did not want to “break up families” in a clear indication that the spouses and children of EU nationals who live abroad will be eligible to join them in the UK. However she said it is “vital” that any deal will have to be “reciprocal” and based on the European Union granting the one million British citizens who live in the Europe the same rights. She also refused to meet EU demands that the “cut-off date”, after which EU citizens will no longer automatically be entitled to stay in the UK, should fall on the day that Britain leaves the European Union.
She instead said that it will be a matter for negotiation and could fall at any point between March 29 2017, the date that Article 50 was triggered, and the date that Britain leaves the European Union, which is expected to be in March 2019.
All those arriving after the “cut-off date” will be given a two year “grace period” after Britain Brexit and will be subsequently expected to obtain a work permit or return to their home countries. If the cut-off date falls in 2019, as the EU demands, it effectively means that freedom of movement will continue until 2021.
Mrs May also set up a further clash with the European Union by rejecting demands that the European Court of Justice should continue to oversee the rights of EU migrants after Brexit. She said: “The commitment that we make to EU citizens will be enshrined in EU law and enforced through our highly-respected
Friday, June 9, 2017
ENGLAND - The prospect of a hung Parliament would throw serious doubt over Brexit negotiations, due to begin in earnest in just 10 days. The BBC/Sky/ITV poll put the Conservatives on 314 seats, Labour on 266, the Scottish National Party on 34, Liberal Democrats on 14, Plaid Cymru on three and Greens on one. The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has set June 19 as his favoured date for the start of talks, due to last around 14-18 months. Protracted negotiations over the formation of a new government - or even a second general election in 2017 - could put back the start of formal talks, squeezing even further the limited time available to forge a complex withdrawal agreement and a separate deal on future trade arrangements. Theresa May repeatedly urged voters to hand her a large majority so that she could go into talks in Brussels with the firm backing of the country and the House of Commons behind her. She warned that if she lost just six seats, she would no longer be Prime Minister, and an unprepared Jeremy Corbyn would go "naked and alone" to the negotiating table. Under the terms of Article 50 of the EU treaties, the two-year deadline for the UK to leave the union can be extended only with the agreement of the other 27 member states. It is unclear whether the letter informing the European Council of Britain's intention to quit can be revoked.