Category "News/World"

The Brexit stakes are high for Chayenne Wiskerke, who owns and manages an onion packing and exporting firm in Kruiningen, near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium.

Wiskerke Onions, a fourth-generation family business, says it packs an eye-watering 185,000 tonnes of onions a year and ships them to more than 100 countries. A whole 20 per cent of production, though, is destined for the United Kingdom.

But what will happen as the U.K. moves to leave the European Union, particularly if there is no deal for the divorce by the March 29 deadline?

Wiskerke worries about her company’s trucks being stopped at the border for inspection, leading to delays for supermarkets that can’t stockpile fresh produce.

“That’s the most difficult thing — you don’t know how to prepare,” Wiskerke said.

As is happening in the U.K., politicians and executives in the Netherlands are working to alleviate the economic fears that could haunt businesses such as Wiskerke Onions while Britain’s uncertain political future sends shockwaves to continental Europe.

The Dutch government says it’s been in talks with 250 foreign firms considering moving or expanding operations into the Netherlands in the wake of Brexit. At least 42 made the move in 2018, according to figures recently published by a Dutch foreign investment organization.

The European Medicines Agency is in the process of relocating from London to Amsterdam. Electronics giants Sony and Panasonic have announced plans to move their European hubs from Britain to the Netherlands.

Not a good outlook

But the outlook overall is hardly positive, even for this country.

While some Dutch entrepreneurs see it as a business opportunity, government officials here use stark language to warn of domestic economic trouble as a result of Britain’s EU breakup. Trade with the U.K. accounted for $43 billion US of the Netherlands’ exports in 2017, according to World Bank data.

The uncertainty is also affecting operations for British firms looking beyond March 29, and prompting them to take action on the continent.

In a conference room in the suburban Dutch city of Breda on a recent morning, Brian McKenzie handed over his British passport to a notary to be photocopied. Both of them signed paperwork.

The Rotterdam skyline spreads out from the city’s World Trade Center, where offices are being renovated to handle U.K. businesses that want a foothold in Europe after Brexit. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

What may have seemed like a mundane interaction highlighted both the fears and business opportunities Brexit represents in the Netherlands, a top trading partner for Britain.

McKenzie acts as chief operating officer for Process Systems Enterprise (PSE), a London-based tech firm developing tools and services for petrochemical companies such as Shell and pharmaceutical giants like GlaxoSmithKline.

His recent visit to the Dutch notary’s office was a step in the process to legally set up a European mainland subsidiary for PSE — a plan to avoid disruptions caused by Brexit.

“It feels like we’re moving away from where our roots are,” McKenzie said later. “But it’s a necessity.”

Gateway to the mainland

McKenzie said other British companies seeking international contracts or staff would plan to keep a foothold in an EU member state such as the Netherlands.

“I don’t think there’s a business in the U.K. that’s not considering it,” he said.

Dutch businessmen Melvin van Esch, left, and Bjorn Wagemakers help British-based companies set up Europe-based subsidiaries in the Netherlands. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Brexit represents a boon for Bjorn Wagemakers, the Breda-based businessman who helped PSE move some operations to the Netherlands. Wagemakers said business is “great, because of Brexit.”

He said his firm, Intercompany Solutions, has been receiving an increasing number of inquiries from companies with British operations seeking to move ever since Britain voted to quit the 28-member bloc in 2016. He says he’s received 15 such requests just this year

Jeroen Redder manages the business hub at the World Trade Centre in the middle of Rotterdam. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Rotterdam, a 40-minute drive from Breda, already presents itself as a gateway to the European mainland. It’s home to the continent’s largest port, adjacent to the North Sea. Local business promoters say it stands to reason that Rotterdam would also act as an entryway to EU-based trade.

“When forced to leave Great Britain, Rotterdam is the first port where they arrive, literally,” said Jeroen Redder, who manages the business hub at the towering World Trade Centre in the middle of Rotterdam. The building is undergoing renovations and hoping to attract businesses with U.K. operations seeking greener pastures on the mainland.

A warning to businesses

A top economic policy maker in the Dutch government told CBC News the worst is yet to come.

“The effects on the Dutch economy will be big,” said Mona Keijzer, the Netherlands’ state secretary for economic affairs. “We say to our Dutch entrepreneurs: Prepare yourselves.”

Mona Keijzer, Dutch state secretary for economic affairs and climate policy, worries about what Brexit will mean for her country because the British and Dutch economies are intertwined. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

Indeed, the government recently released uniquely colourful imagery in a bid to underscore the potential risks Brexit poses to Dutch companies with international supply chains and trade links.

Foreign Minister Stef Blok tweeted a photo featuring a giant fuzzy blue monster lying on his desk, wearing a T-shirt marked “Brexit.”

“Make sure Brexit doesn’t sit — or lie — in your way,” the tweet warned, with a link to a government website that lays out potential pitfalls for Dutch firms.

The longer parliamentarians in London grapple over the best way forward, the greater the odds Britain crashes out of the EU on March 29 without a divorce deal. It could leave the U.K. bound to impose — and suffer — tariffs and trade delays.

“It’s a bit messy on the other side and that’s a shame because our economies are very intertwined,” Keijzer said.

For Wiskerke, the uncertainty is very real.

Produce ordered from Wiskerke Onions one day can be on the shelves of British grocery stores the next day. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC)

As it stands, British grocery stores can order Dutch onions one day and have them on shelves the following day. In the event of a disorderly Brexit, she says there’s “absolutely” a risk British supermarkets will run out of onions.

Wiskerke hopes Dutch produce trucks can be pre-screened before reaching Britain to avoid any delays in supply. She’s confident governments will eventually agree to plans to avoid the worst Brexit-induced trade disruptions.

“They will always need onions,” she said.

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Hundreds of passengers throughout Europe have been stranded by the abrupt collapse of the British regional airline Flybmi.

British Midland Regional Ltd., which operates as Flybmi or bmi, said it’s filing for administration — a British version of bankruptcy protection — because of higher fuel costs and uncertainty caused by Britain’s upcoming departure from the European Union.

“Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe and a lack of confidence around bmi’s ability to continue flying between destinations in Europe,” the airline said on its website late Saturday.

The airline thanked workers for their dedication and said “it is with a heavy heart that we have made this unavoidable announcement.”

376 thrown out of work

The airline operated 17 jets on routes to 25 European cities. It employed 376 people in Britain, Germany, Sweden and Belgium and says it carried 522,000 passengers on 29,000 flights last year.

Pilots union chief Brian Strutton said the airline’s collapse came with no warning and “is devastating news for all employees.”

“Our immediate steps will be to support Flybmi pilots and explore with the directors and administrators whether their jobs can be saved,” he said.

Britain is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29 but there are serious doubts about whether the British Parliament will approve the Brexit withdrawal deal that Prime Minister Theresa May negotiated with the EU. That is making it more difficult for businesses to plan for the separation.

Many passengers stranded

Flybmi said all flights will be cancelled and advised passengers to seek refunds from credit card issuers, travel agents or travel insurance companies.

Passengers were told not to travel to the airport Sunday, unless they had made arrangements directly with other airlines. Flybmi said it would not be rescheduling passengers on other airlines’ flights.

Many passengers were left stranded by the shutdown. Hannah Price told Sky News she was planning to return Monday to Britain from Brussels on Flybmi.

Hundreds of passengers have been stranded by the abrupt collapse of the British regional airline. (PA via AP)

“Unfortunately for me, I was supposed to be flying home with them in less than 48 hours to Bristol. I don’t think that’s going to happen now,” she said.

The collapse will have a major impact on the Northern Ireland city of Derry, also known as Londonderry, which will lose its only air connection to London. Officials at the City of Derry Airport said they were urgently seeking a new carrier to keep the link open.

Flybmi was still seeking customers up until the day before its collapse, urging people in a tweet to book flights to Germany for a winter sports holiday.

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U.S. and Chinese negotiators meet this week for their final trade talks before President Donald Trump decides whether to go ahead with a March 2 tariff hike on $200 billion US of imports from China.

Two days of talks starting Thursday are too little time to resolve a tariff war over Beijing’s technology ambitions that threatens to drag on weakening global economic growth, say businesspeople and economists. Instead, they say China’s goal is to show they are making enough progress to persuade Trump to extend his deadline.

There are few signs of progress on their thorniest issue: Washington’s demand that Beijing scale back plans for government-led creation of global champions in robotics and other technology. China’s trading partners say those violate its market-opening obligations. Some American officials worry they might erode U.S. industrial leadership.

This week, Beijing wants “to see the threat of additional tariff imposition being removed for as long as possible,” with minimal conditions attached, said Louis Kuijs of Oxford Economics.

Trump’s December agreement to postpone more tariff hikes while the two sides negotiate expires March 1. The following day, a 10 per cent tariff imposed in July on $200 billion of Chinese imports would rise to 25 per cent.

Companies on both sides have been battered by Washington’s tariffs and retaliatory duties imposed by Beijing. And the stakes are rising as global economic growth cools.

Trump hiked tariffs on Chinese goods in July over complaints Beijing steals or pressures companies to hand over technology. The dispute spread to include Chinese technology plans, cyberspying and their lopsided trade balance.

Chinese leaders have offered to narrow their multibillion-dollar trade surplus with the United States. But they have resisted making major changes in development plans they see as a path to prosperity and global influence.

“China will continue resisting U.S. demands in certain areas, such as changes to its industrial strategy and the role of the state in its economy,” said Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University economist who was head of the China division at the International Monetary Fund.

U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer, a member of the U.S. trade delegation to China, is seen as arrives at a Beijing hotel. (Jason Lee/Reuters)

Chinese officials reject complaints that foreign companies are required to hand over technology. But business groups and foreign governments point to rules they say compel companies to share technology with state-owned local partners or disclose trade secrets.

Chinese officials also are balking at U.S. pressure to accept a mechanism to monitor whether Beijing carries out its promises, said Kuijs.

“They feel that it is humiliating for China if another country does this,” he said.

The U.S. delegation is led by Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, who has said his priority is Chinese industrial policy, not the trade gap. He is accompanied by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

The Chinese side by Vice Premier Liu He, President Xi Jinping’s top economic adviser. It will be his second meeting with Lighthizer following last month’s talks in Washington.

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Amid mounting uncertainty over Brexit, the British economy slowed last year to its weakest growth rate since the aftermath of the global financial crisis, official figures released Monday show.

The Office for National Statistics said that the British economy grew by a quarterly rate of only 0.2 per cent during the fourth quarter, down from the 0.6 per cent tick recorded in the previous three-month period. Output actually fell in the month of December by 0.4 per cent from the month before.

Over 2018 as a whole, the economy grew by 1.4 per cent, its lowest rate since 2009, when it contracted by 4.2 per cent in the wake of the global financial crisis that had brought much of the world’s banking system to its knees.

Last week, the Bank of England chopped its forecast for growth this year by 0.5 percentage points to 1.2 per cent, which would be the weakest year since the 2009 recession. 

Statisticians did not directly blame Brexit for the slowdown but there is plenty of evidence showing that the uncertainties relating to the country’s departure from the European Union are weighing heavily on economic activity, particularly business investment. Firms have no clear idea of what the country’s trading relationship with the EU will look like after the scheduled Brexit date of March 29.

The statistics agency’s head of GDP figures, Rob Kent-Smith, said the slowdown in the last three months of the year was particularly “steep” in car manufacturing and steel production, offset by continued growth in the services sector, which makes up around 80 per cent of the British economy.

The British economy largely held up better than expected in the immediate aftermath of the vote to leave the European Union in June 2016.

‘Fog of Brexit’

However, as Brexit day draws nearer, firms are getting edgy. There is no sign that the uncertainty, described as the “fog of Brexit” by the Bank of England, is going to lift anytime soon.

Prime Minister Theresa May is struggling to salvage the Brexit deal she agreed on with the EU late last year after it was overwhelmingly rejected by British lawmakers. She’s trying to eke out concessions from the EU, particularly on a controversial provision intended to make sure no hard border returns between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

It’s unclear she will be able to get any concessions and fears have grown in recent weeks that Britain could crash out of the EU without a deal, a worst-case scenario that the Bank of England has previously said could see the British economy shrink by 8 per cent within months and house prices collapse by around a third.

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A British newspaper has published details of allegations of sexual and racial misconduct by retail tycoon Philip Green, after the Topshop owner dropped a legal bid to stop the claims being reported.

The Daily Telegraph on Saturday described allegations by five former employees, including that he groped a female executive, held another in a headlock and mocked a male staff member’s dreadlocks.

The employees received substantial payments to settle claims against Green on condition they signed non-disclosure agreements.

Green’s lawyers deny his conduct “amounted to any type of crime, or anything that would amount to gross misconduct, or a serious risk to health and safety.”

Dropped legal action Friday

Green obtained an injunction to stop the newspaper publishing the allegations, but dropped his legal action on Friday because his name has already become public.

A judge at London’s High Court declined a request by the Telegraph to impose conditions preventing Green from suing the newspaper or the former employees in the future.

The case has renewed debate about the corporate use of non-disclosure agreements. The practice has been under scrutiny since it emerged last year that movie mogul Harvey Weinstein used them to keep alleged sex abuse victims from speaking out.

Green, 66, is chairman of Arcadia Group, which owns brands including Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Miss Selfridge, as well as Topshop.

Long a fixture in the front row at London Fashion Week and frequently photographed in the company of Kate Moss and other supermodels, he has drawn criticism in the past over his business practices.

In 2015, he sold department store chain BHS for 1 pound (under $2 Cdn) after 15 years of ownership during which he took hundreds of millions in dividends and other payments. BHS collapsed the next year, leaving a gaping hole in its pension fund.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says the National Enquirer is threatening to publish revealing photographs of him unless his private investigators back off the tabloid.

Bezos detailed the revelations in a Thursday post on He accuses the Enquirer of “extortion and blackmail.”

The National Enquirer published a story last month that included lurid texts between Bezos and former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez. Since then, private investigators have been looking into how the Enquirer got the texts.

Bezos says the Enquirer’s parent company tried to get him to agree to a deal for the tabloid not to publish the explicit photos.

As part of the deal, Bezos would have to release a public statement that he has “no knowledge or basis” to suggest the tabloid’s reporting was politically motivated.

Bezos is publisher of the Washington Post.

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Three employees of Brazilian mining company Vale SA and two contractors were arrested on Tuesday, prosecutors said, as a criminal investigation began into a dam rupture that’s expected to leave a death toll of more than 300 people.

Vale said it was co-operating with investigators in the case, which has enraged Brazilians and raised fresh questions about the company’s commitment to safety after a similar dam burst just over three years ago at a nearby mine it jointly owned.

Two of those arrested were Vale’s senior managers at the Corrego do Feijao mine, where a tailings dam broke on Friday, hammering the nearby town of Brumadinho with a flood of mining waste — according to a court order seen by Reuters. The job of the third Vale employee was not immediately clear.

Two other engineers, who worked on behalf of Vale and are accused of attesting to the safety of the dam, were arrested in Sao Paulo, state prosecutors there said.

Minas Gerais state investigators issued a total of five arrest warrants and seven search warrants on suspicion of murder, falsification of documents and environmental crimes, a judge’s decision showed.

The collapse of the dam in the hilly, pastoral region has caused 65 confirmed deaths so far, according to firefighters’ count on Monday night, with another 279 people missing and likely dead.

Chief financial officer Luciano Siani said Vale was doing all it could, offering money to mourners, extra tax payments to local government, a special membrane to remove mud from the river and major investments to make its dams safer.

Vale is destroying Minas Gerais.– Robinson Passos, local resident

Yet residents in the devastated town of Brumadinho have been unmoved, watching in shock and anger as one dead body after another has been pulled from the mud.

Following a deadly 2015 tailings dam collapse just a few towns over at a mine half-owned by Vale, the disaster remained unforgivable in the eyes of many Brazilians.

“Vale is destroying Minas Gerais,” said Robinson Passos, 52, who lost a cousin and friends in Brumadinho.

“There’s anger, sadness, everything,” he said, holding back tears as he surveyed the destruction in Corrego do Feijao, a hamlet within Brumadinho that gave its name to the mine at the center of the disaster.


At the headquarters for the local mining union, which lost more than one in 10 members by organizers’ count, treasurer Jose Francisco Mateiro, blamed the company and authorities for putting him and his comrades at risk.

“They call it an accident but the design of those dams was premeditated,” he said. “There have been warnings about all mining dams for a long time now.”

Vale chief executive officer Fabio Schvartsman said the facility was up to code and equipment had shown the dam was stable just two weeks before the collapse.

“We are 100 per cent within all the standards, and that didn’t do it,” he said in a Sunday TV interview.

Firefighters are resupplied as they search for victims of the dam collapse on Monday. (Leo Correa/Associated Press)

Siani said the company would donate 100,000 reals ($35,517) to each family that had lost a loved one, adding the company would continue paying mining royalties to Brumadinho despite a halt in operations there.

The company was building a membrane to stop the flow of mud now snaking down the Paraopeba River. A “bold” investment plan also would speed the process of making dams more secure, he said.

Prosecutors and politicians have not been impressed.

On Monday, a presidential task force contemplated forcing out Vale’s management. Government ministers have said Brazil’s mining regulations are broken. The country’s top prosecutor said the company should be criminally prosecuted and executives held personally responsible.

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Britain’s food security could be threatened if it leaves the EU without a deal and suffers an abrupt hit to trade with the bloc, a lobby group representing firms including Sainsbury’s, Asda, McDonald’s and KFC said on Monday.

Business leaders have expressed alarm at the prospect of chaos at ports if Britain does not agree on the terms of its withdrawal from the European Union that’s scheduled for March 29.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) made its latest warning in a letter sent to lawmakers. It was also signed by the bosses of supermarket groups the Co-operative, Marks & Spencer, Lidl and Waitrose.

“While we have been working closely with our suppliers on contingency plans, it is not possible to mitigate all the risks to our supply chains and we fear significant disruption in the short term as a result if there is no Brexit deal,” the letter said.

“We are therefore asking you to work with your colleagues in Parliament urgently to find a solution that avoids the shock of a no-deal Brexit on 29 March and removes these risks for U.K. consumers.”

Nearly 1/3 of U.K. food comes from EU

The letter was published ahead of key Brexit votes in Parliament set for Tuesday.

It noted that nearly a third of the food eaten in the U.K. comes from the EU. The situation would be even more acute in March when British produce is out of season, with 90 per cent of lettuces, 80 per cent of tomatoes and 70 per cent of soft fruit sourced from the EU at that time of year.

“As this produce is fresh and perishable, it needs to be moved quickly from farms to our stores,” it said. “This complex, ‘just in time’ supply chain will be significantly disrupted in the event of no deal.”

The BRC noted that even if the British government does not undertake checks on products at the border, there would be major disruption at Calais, as the French government has said it will enforce sanitary and customs checks on exports from the EU.

Food prices likely to rise

The BRC letter highlighted the U.K. government’s own data suggesting freight trade between Calais and Dover may reduce by 87 per cent against current levels as a result.

“For consumers, this will reduce the availability and shelf life of many products in our stores,” it said.

The BRC also expressed concern about the pressure on food prices from higher transport costs, currency devaluation and tariffs.

Only around 10 per cent of Britain’s food imports are now subject to tariffs. If the U.K. were to revert to WTO Most Favoured Nation status in a no-deal scenario, it would greatly increase import costs, which could in turn put upward pressure on food prices, the BRC said.

It said the U.K. could set import tariffs at zero, but that would have “a devastating impact” on Britain’s farmers, a key part of the supermarkets’ supply chain.

The signatories said they were stockpiling where possible, but noted that all of Britain’s frozen and chilled storage is already being used, with little general warehousing space available.

They said it is impossible to stockpile fresh produce, such as salad leaves and fresh fruit, with supermarkets typically storing no more than two weeks’ inventory.

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Pro-Brexit British lawmakers were mounting a campaign Monday to rescue Prime Minister Theresa May’s rejected European Union divorce deal in a parliamentary showdown this week.

Lawmakers threw out May’s Brexit deal two weeks ago, and will debate and vote Tuesday on competing plans for what to do next about Britain’s impending departure from the bloc.

May insists her agreement can still win Parliament’s backing, if it is tweaked to alleviate concerns about a provision for the Irish border. The measure, known as the backstop, would keep the U.K. in a customs union with the EU in order to remove the need for checks along the frontier between the U.K.’s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Britain leaves the EU.

That border is important because it will be the only land border between Britain and the EU after Brexit.

Border checkpoints there have disappeared since Ireland and Britain both became members of the EU single market and the 1998 Good Friday peace accord largely ended decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

Opposition to the backstop by pro-Brexit lawmakers — who fear it will trap Britain in regulatory lockstep with the EU — helped sink May’s deal earlier this month. A new proposal submitted by Conservative legislator Graham Brady commits to backing May’s deal if the backstop is replaced by “alternative arrangements.”

Brady said if the motion is approved by Parliament, it would give May “enormous firepower” to go back to Brussels and renegotiate the Brexit divorce deal.

Some lawmakers who voted against May’s deal the first time say they would now support it if the Irish backstop was removed.

‘Seize the moment’

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, a leading Brexiteer, said the prime minister was trying to secure a “freedom clause” that would ensure Britain could get out of the backstop. In his weekly Daily Telegraph column, Johnson said May would have “the whole country full-throatedly behind her” if she secured such a change.

But EU leaders insist they will not change the legally binding Brexit withdrawal agreement.

“This withdrawal agreement has been agreed with the U.K. government. It is endorsed by leaders and is not open for renegotiation,” EU spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Sunday that Northern Ireland’s peace process depended on avoiding the return of a hard border.

“That won’t be easy, and those who misrepresent the backstop don’t have an alternative to it,” he said. “The EU has been clear that the backstop is an integral part of the withdrawal agreement.”

People hold signs during a protest by an anti-Brexit group called Borders Against Brexit in Carrickcarnan, Ireland, on Saturday. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

Brady’s backstop proposal is one of more than a dozen amendments proposed by U.K. lawmakers that aim to alter the course of Britain’s departure. Some others seek to rule out a no-deal Brexit so Britain would not tumble out of the bloc on March 29 without an agreement in place to cushion the shock.

Businesses say a no-deal Brexit would cause economic chaos by eliminating trade agreements and imposing tariffs, customs checks and other barriers between the U.K. and the EU, its biggest trading partner.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow will announce Tuesday which amendments have been selected for debate and vote.

Conservative lawmaker Nick Boles, who is backing an amendment designed to rule out a no-deal Brexit and seek a delay to Britain’s EU departure, said Tuesday “is probably the only opportunity that Parliament is going to have to intervene in this process, to take control.”

“If we don’t seize the moment tomorrow afternoon, then we are at grave risk of just driving off the edge on March 29 without really wanting to and when there might be a compromise we could achieve, if we just had a few more months,” he told the BBC.

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Congressional leaders and U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday agreed to a stop-gap spending plan that would end a partial government shutdown now in day 35, according to a senior House Democratic aide.

The president, who previously had insisted on $5.7 billion US in funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border in any spending bill, will deliver remarks soon at the White House.

Trump and lawmakers reached a deal to advance a three-week temporary funding bill that would reopen shuttered agencies. The deal would leave Trump’s request for wall funding for later talks, the aide said. The aide said the House could pass the measure as soon as Friday if Republicans agree to hold a vote.

With the effects of the shutdown spreading on Friday, White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter that Trump would address the shutdown in a Rose Garden appearance.

A Senate Republican aide said Republican Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell was expected to press for passage of a three-week funding bill on Friday.

Any temporary funding bill would simply extend agency funding at the last fiscal year’s levels and would include some money for border security — but not a wall.

Delayed flights, missed paycheques 

Trump triggered the shutdown, which began on Dec. 22, when he demanded the $5.7 billion US in money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border that he has long promised but that Democrats oppose as costly, ineffective and immoral. Trump at the time said he would not sign any legislation to fund government agencies if the wall money was not included.

Hundreds of flights were grounded or delayed Friday at airports in the New York area and Philadelphia as more air traffic controllers called in sick. The Federal Aviation Administration issued a ground stop for flights destined for New York’s LaGuardia Airport on Friday morning before lifting it about an hour later. Staff shortages also delayed flights at Newark Liberty International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport, the FAA said.

Hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been furloughed or, as with some airport workers, required to work without pay. Some federal agencies have reported much higher absence rates among workers as they face an indefinite wait for their next paycheques.

Trump has called the wall necessary to curb illegal immigration and drug trafficking, but Democrats, who now control the House of Representatives, have rejected his demand.

The lapse in funding has shuttered about one-quarter of federal agencies, with about 800,000 workers either furloughed or required to work without pay. It is the longest such shutdown in U.S. history.

On Thursday, a bill backed by Trump to end the shutdown by including the $5.7 billion US he wants for partial wall funding and a separate bill supported by Democrats to reopen shuttered agencies without such funding did not get the votes required to advance in the 100-member Senate.

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters on Thursday the possibility of legislation that includes a large down payment on a wall “is not a reasonable agreement.”

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