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On Brexit, Theresa May’s undoing may be Europe’s salvation




And, most significantly, that it isn’t what they signed up for.

But even though there may be a direct route to a second referendum visible beyond the potholes, the road ahead is still treacherous.

On Nov. 14, Prime Minister May presented to her cabinet a draft Brexit agreement worked out between U.K. and EU negotiators. She claimed it lived up to the spirit of the 2016 referendum, but many in her party disagreed. On key points, it fell far short of what she promised that a Brexit — Britain outside of the EU — would deliver.

Several cabinet ministers resigned, and there were bitter attacks from within her Conservative family. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a leading Euro-skeptic Tory MP, said the deal would make the U.K. a “slave state.” Boris Johnson, who earlier resigned as foreign secretary over May’s handling of the issue, warned of a “vassal-state.”

But Tory efforts to oust May as prime minister failed, at least for now.

The draft agreement is expected to be presented to leaders of the other 27 EU countries in an “emergency summit” scheduled for Sunday.

Much of Europe loathes the prospect of losing the United Kingdom from the European Union for fear that other countries, such as Italy, could follow suit. This has shaped their approach.

The strategy has been to turn the screws on U.K. negotiators, and to make it as unappealing as possible to the rest of Europe to abandon the EU.

To many people — not only in Britain’s opposition parties but also to many Conservatives — they may have succeeded. It is difficult to make the case that the United Kingdom would be better off with this draft agreement than with its current membership within the EU.

Worries about Brexit have rocked Britain’s economy. Immigration levels have dropped, making the fears of being “overrun” by refugees less urgent. And evidence keeps emerging that — similar to the U.S. and other European elections — there was tampering by Russian intelligence agencies conspiring with Britons to tilt the 2016 vote in the direction of the “Leave” campaign.

There is also the fact that young people in particular — who largely abstained during the 2016 referendum — have roared back in their opposition to Brexit.

The headline from last year’s British election, which narrowly elected May’s Tories as a minority government, was the overwhelming opposition of young people toward the Conservatives as a form of buyer’s remorse after ignoring the Brexit referendum.

Assuming the draft agreement is approved by other EU leaders, the challenge for the prime minister will be to get approval from the House of Commons sometime in December. That is regarded as unlikely.

May presides over a minority government, and she is certain to be opposed by several MPs in the Tory caucus. The opposition parties, led by Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour, have said they will vote against the agreement.

An irony here is that Corbyn himself — a fierce critic of the EU for all of his life — is still trying to straddle a confused middle ground without revealing what, in the end, Labour will do apart from voting against the agreement.

If the Brexit agreement is voted down by parliament, the prime minister will have to make a choice.

Will she insist that the government goes ahead with Brexit — without any deal with the EU? She claims that she will not do that, since most economists predict catastrophe for Britain in that scenario.

Will she resign as Tory leader and prime minister? Given her dogged stubbornness to see this agreement through, that seems unlikely.

Will she regard a parliamentary vote against the agreement as a vote of non-confidence in her government, and call for a new election? Also unlikely, since polls suggest the Tories would lose.

That leaves this tantalizing possibility:

That she would describe this agreement as the best for Britain, and call for another referendum that “puts it to the people” to choose between this vision of a post-Brexit Britain versus the status quo within the European Union.

If that happens, May would have every reason to worry because recent polling suggests that voters are becoming less enamoured with the notion of leaving the EU.

That was evident a few weeks ago when an estimated 700,000 from all over the U.K. marched peacefully on parliament to demand a second referendum. They called for a “people’s vote” in the biggest protest against government policy in the U.K. since the Iraq War in 2003.

A recent poll by Britain’s Channel 4 indicated that 54 per cent of U.K. voters would vote to “remain” in the EU. It was described as the largest independent poll in the U.K. since the 2016 referendum.

May’s draft agreement received a low level of support, even among those who voted to leave in 2016. There appears to be a growing number of people who, however reluctantly, are concluding that the terms of exiting the EU now appear less attractive than the status quo.

If this trend holds, it would be a potentially mortal threat to the Leave forces in any second referendum. For the European Union itself, it would be like dodging a bullet.

It is not hard to imagine that the rest of Europe would work overtime to suggest that, if the U.K. remained within the EU, it would receive concessions on some of the major issues that led to the 2016 vote.

This issue is coming to a head at a crucial time in Europe.

Within the U.K. itself, it is seen as a pivotal moment in the country’s history. By withdrawing from Europe, the future points Britain in the direction of a “Little England” that would likely result in less government, less regulation and more doctrinaire conservative policies.

But inside of the EU, the United Kingdom would be aligned with the broader, social democratic ideals of today’s Europe, however flawed.

As for Europe itself, the struggle is to contain the growing populist and nationalist forces that seem on the ascendancy. With a strong Britain within the EU, that battle seems winnable. Without Britain, it is less so.

In that sense, this latest battle over Brexit is a global concern that has meaning well beyond Britain’s borders.

BREXIT: A timeline

Nov. 14: Prime Minister Theresa May presented a draft Brexit deal to her cabinet. It fell short of what she had promised, triggering several cabinet resignations. But efforts by Euro-skeptic Tory MPs to oust her failed, at least initially.

Nov. 25: Leaders of 27 European nations are expected at a special Brexit summit to formally ratify the deal. It needs to be backed by a supermajority of leaders.

December: After five days of scheduled debate, the agreement would be put to the House of Commons for approval. Its passage is doubtful, since the Conservative Party lacks a majority and it will be opposed by the opposition Labour party. Many Tory MPs may oppose it as well.

If it is defeated, May could proceed with a “hard” Brexit — one with no deal with the European Union — but that is regarded as potentially catastrophic to the U.K. economy. Or May could resign, forcing a Conservative leadership contest or a general election, but the Tories would likely lose any election.

An alternative scenario is a second referendum on whether U.K. voters want the current agreement on offer or to remain in the European Union.

January-February, 2019: If some form of agreement is passed by the Commons, it would have to enact the necessary legislation.

March 29: The historic “Brexit Day” when Britain’s exit from the EU would be declared. If a second referendum is planned, the EU would be required to extend the March 29 deadline, but this would be a formality.

April and beyond: If Brexit is proceeding, a 21-month transition period would begin so that trade relations can be negotiated. Many aspects of U.K. membership in the EU would remain in place, including free movement across borders, but Britain would no longer have an EU vote.

Dec. 31, 2020: The transition period is scheduled to end. But it is expected this period would need to be extended, perhaps for several years.

Tony Burman, formerly head of CBC News and Al Jazeera English, is a freelance contributor for the Star. He is based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @TonyBurman


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Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme




Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year




In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal




MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.


The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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