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E.U. proposes immigration deal that would require countries to take a share of asylum seekers or assist in deportations



But the proposal nods at the political divisions within the bloc and is full of concessions to hard-line nations that have resisted accepting migrants, even with flows down more than tenfold from the peak.

“We all have to step up,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said as she unveiled the package in Brussels. “It is now time to rise to the challenge to manage migration jointly.”

The proposal, which was drawn up by the European Commission, the E.U.’s bureaucratic arm, still must be approved by the leaders of the 27 E.U. member nations, who routinely demand changes to such plans.

Recent European history is full of dead-on-arrival migration plans, but some analysts said Wednesday that this one comes at a time of slightly increased cooperation. Far-right parties, though still relevant, have lost some momentum in recent years. Data from Germany, which opened its doors widely and controversially in 2015, paints an encouraging picture of how refugees can integrate.

Leaders are also operating with a fresh reminder of Europe’s grave problems. A fire this month razed the continent’s largest, most notorious camp for asylum seekers, on the Greek island of Lesbos. About 10,000 people from the destroyed Moria camp now live in a hastily built tent camp on the island.

“In a way, it’s a key moment. If this migration pact doesn’t work, it’s the last roll of the dice,” said Andrew Geddes, director of the Migration Policy Center at the European University Institute in Florence. “Europe will have tried and tried again.”

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who has been critical of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy in the past, described the plan as a “fresh start” and called on other European countries to do their bit.

“There is currently no functioning European migration policy,” he said. “The events in Moria recently made this clear to us.”

This plan differs from an earlier, failed European attempt — drawn up in the aftermath of the 2015 crisis — that called for countries to host asylum seekers based on a quota system. In this instance, countries can still volunteer to host people.

But they also have other, far different options. Notably, they can opt to sponsor the deportation of rejected asylum seekers, essentially taking responsibility for shepherding the onerous process. If a sponsor country is unable to return the migrant, it would then have to host him or her.

The option could be more appealing to countries such as Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Austria, which revolted against the quota idea and are traditionally the least welcoming to migrants.

But advocates for migrants’ rights, as well as some politicians, accused the European Union of twisting its values by offering deportation as an alternative to hosting asylum seekers. Guy Verhofstadt, a Belgian member of the European Parliament, said on Twitter that the European Union could not afford to base its policies on “extremism” in Hungary and Poland.

Judith Sunderland, acting deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division at Human Rights Watch, said that entrusting countries such as Hungary to care for would-be deportees was like “asking the school bully to walk the kid home.”

“It’s this lowest-common-denominator approach, satisfying everybody at least a little bit,” Sunderland said of the plan.

A spokesman for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was noncommittal in his response to the plan Wednesday, saying in a statement that “we should form alliances with countries of origin, so that they are able to provide proper living standards and ensure that their people do not have to leave their homelands,” a suggestion that echoes in the proposal.

“Hungary does not support obligatory distribution,” wrote the spokesman, Zoltan Kovacs, stopping short of endorsing the plan.

European Commission leaders said deportations were another way to ensure that the broader migration system was running smoothly, without bottlenecks.

The heightened focus on deportations is a response to changes in who has been arriving. Whereas in earlier years many were fleeing war-torn Syria — and almost universally earning protection in Europe — a growing number now are deemed economic migrants, not eligible for legal status. In one of the documents released Wednesday, the European Commission noted that the share of migrants coming from countries with low recognition rates for legal protection has risen from 13 percent in 2015 to 55 percent in 2018.

Groups that deal with migrants expressed concern Wednesday that some of Europe’s proposals, such as an attempt to fast-track deportations, could lead to increased detention, rights abuses and the mistaken return of at-risk people.

The plan calls for fast-track border procedures in which people with “low chances” for asylum are rapidly screened.

“They will have their return decision very quickly, and they will be returned,” said the European commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson. “I think this will have people think twice before paying a lot of money to smugglers and before risking their lives going into these dangerous boats.”

Europe has struggled to carry out deportations, despite numerous pledges to improve numbers. Only about a third of people who are given deportation orders are actually sent to their home countries. Countries in the Middle East and Africa, from where most migrants to Europe originate, have been reluctant to accept returns. In some cases, their economies rely on remittances from workers in wealthier countries. Countries also feel that Europe has not done enough to offer legal pathways for their citizens to come on student or work visas.

Hanne Beirens, director of the Migration Policy Institute Europe in Brussels, said it was a “blemish” on Europe that the continent has had such a hard time overhauling its migration system, even as the level of arrivals has become far more manageable. Even now, humanitarian rescue boats in the Mediterranean are often stuck for days as countries squabble over whether to accept the boat at port — and what to do with the migrants who arrive.

“We can’t be seen as scrambling and not knowing what to do when even a small boat arrives,” Beirens said. “If you look at the numbers now, they are manageable. This is something the E.U. should be able to manage. But because of the deep distrust of member states to make even the slightest move that could be seen as weakness, we have a very stalled process.”

Birnbaum reported from Riga, Latvia. Loveday Morris in Berlin contributed to this report.



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TikTok’s Proposed Deal Seeks to Mollify U.S. and China


Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Ross, who are both playing a prominent role in reviewing ByteDance’s proposal, have come to favor a solution that would reduce national security and data risks by moving some of TikTok’s key operations out of China, rather than killing the company outright, those people said. There are few strong voices in the administration speaking out against such a deal, with the trade adviser Peter Navarro, a China hawk and one of TikTok’s more vocal critics, playing a minimal role in recent discussions.

ByteDance’s carefully designed proposal and the shifting views of Mr. Trump’s advisers indicate how they are more willing to compromise to mitigate an increasingly fractious situation over a video app that is beloved by American teenagers and influencers. On Sunday, ByteDance rejected a deal from Microsoft, in which Microsoft had proposed essentially taking over control of TikTok’s algorithm.

“This way D.C. is happy, Beijing’s happy with no algorithm being sold, and ByteDance and TikTok, along with Oracle, all have smiles on their faces,” said Daniel Ives, a technology analyst at Wedbush Securities. “This is a very tight balancing act for ByteDance because they’re trying to, by the thread of a needle, keep their company as a stand-alone.”

In its statement on Monday, TikTok said the proposal that was in front of the Treasury Department would “enable us to continue supporting our community of 100 million people in the U.S. who love TikTok for connection and entertainment.” Oracle confirmed that it was “part of the proposal submitted by ByteDance to the Treasury Department,” but declined to elaborate.

Mr. Mnuchin described on CNBC on Monday how Oracle would be a “trusted technology partner” for TikTok and said the software company had made “many representations for national security issues.” The White House declined to comment, and the Department of Commerce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other parties may still be interested in participating in a deal. Walmart, which had been working on a TikTok bid with Microsoft, said on Sunday in a statement that it “continues to have an interest in a TikTok investment and continues discussions with ByteDance leadership and other interested parties.”



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When is the Brexit deal deadline and what if there’s not a deal?


Dealing with both Brexit and coronavirus is a massive undertaking (Picture: PA)

The final Brexit negotiations have coincided with the onset and fallout of the coronavirus pandemic – further complicating an already unique situation.

Meanwhile, fears of a second wave of coronavirus persist and uncertainty is widespread as the deadline to broker a Brexit deal grows ever closer.

With talks between UK and the EU still ongoing, here’s what you need to know about when the deadline to secure a Brexit deal is and what could happen if a deal isn’t brokered in time.

When is the Brexit deal deadline?

Britain officially left the European Union on January 31, 2020.

This date also signalled the start of a ‘transition period’ which is intended to allow the UK and the EU a chance to adjust to this new situation and reach a deal.

This transition period is set to end on December 31, and no extension will be given due to the fact that the deadline to request one has passed.

The PM previously said that he did not want negotiations to stretch on past September, but a new deal deadline for the end of October has since been set.

For the time being, as the transition period continues, the UK and the EU are still trading under the same rules as before.

If a deal between the EU and the UK is not brokered before the transition period ends in December, then the UK will drop out of both the customs union and the single market.

A senior source previously told the Telegraph: ‘The government has been making it clear for a while that it is prepared for a no deal.

‘Britain isn’t going to budge on fundamentals like fishing rights, so it’s all in the hands of the EU.’

Transport minister Grant Shapps said in July that the Government would like a deal but was prepared to accept a no-deal situation.

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According to leaked emergency plans, the Government is preparing for economic chaos, power outages and public unrest if a second wave of coronavirus occurs in tandem with a no-deal Brexit.

A classified PowerPoint made by the Cabinet Office’s EU Transition Task Force warns of price hikes, power outages, water rationing and animal disease ripping through the countryside in the event of a potential medicine shortage.

On top of that, the document seen by The Sun warned ministers of food and fuel shortages around Christmastime if lorries get stuck at Dover, while 1,500 soldiers are already on standby ready to help police deal with potential unrest.

Under the Government’s plans for an ‘unruly’ EU departure, planners suspect France will enforce ‘mandatory controls on UK goods from day one’, which could see the flow of deliveries between Dover and Calais drop by 45% over three months, meaning longer queues and a shortage of the 30% of food imported from the bloc, along with medicines, fuel and chemicals used to purify drinking water.

The worst-case scenario could see water rationing implemented and power outages in parts of the nation.

MORE: ‘An imperial history that no longer exists’: Nobel Prize-winning geneticist on Brexit

MORE: Co-op Bank to axe 350 jobs and close 18 branches across country

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Stilton drives wedge between UK-Japan Brexit deal


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stilton

A post-Brexit trade deal between the UK and Japan may have met an unlikely obstacle – stilton cheese.

On Friday, the two sides said they hoped to agree the details of a post-Brexit trade agreement by the end of the month.

The Department for International Trade said talks are ongoing.

But progress has reportedly been blown off course after International Trade Secretary Liz Truss requested better terms for British blue cheeses.

The Financial Times, which first reported that talks had hit a snag, said Ms Truss may be looking for a symbolic victory, as sales of blue cheese to Japan from the UK were only £102,000 last year.

A better deal for the products may mean her department could claim a slightly more favourable deal than the one the EU secured with Japan last year, when the two sides secured a cut of €1bn of tariffs on food.

Dairy and other food products are among the EU’s biggest exports to Japan.

Ms Truss is a long-term fan of UK produce. In 2014, when she was environment secretary she told the Conservative Party conference it was a “disgrace” that “we import two-thirds of our apples, nine-tenths of our pears, and two-thirds of our cheese”.

The Department for International Trade declined to say more about the report, other than that talks are ongoing and point to Ms Truss’s comments from Friday, when she said a consensus had been reached between the UK and Japan and said a deal was expected by the end of the month.

“Negotiations have been positive and productive, and we have reached consensus on the major elements of a deal – including ambitious provisions in areas like digital, data and financial services that go significantly beyond the EU-Japan deal,” she said in a statement at the time.

“Our shared aim is to reach a formal agreement in principle by the end of August.”



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Greece-Egypt EEZ deal doesn’t sit easy with Turkey



Greece and Egypt signed a maritime border deal on August 6 with Turkey saying the deal falls in its continental shelf.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry reportedly said the agreement allows his country and Greece to move forward in developing promising natural resources, including oil and gas reserves in their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ).

“First, this is a positive development,” Charles Ellinas, a senior fellow at the Global Energy Center at the Atlantic Council, told New Europe on August 7. “The agreement is based on UNCLOS, recognising the right of islands, as it should. But it needs to evolve further to cover the eastern part of the two EEZs, delineation of which is affected by Cyprus and Kastellorizo. But it is an excellent start, reinforcing internationally accepted maritime principles,” Ellinas added.

But he argued that neither Greece nor Egypt will rush into drilling. He noted that both countries will need to complete EEZ delineation first – including Cyprus – and then divide their respective EEZs into exploration blocks. That would eventually enable the two countries to proceed with licensing rounds. Its only then that exploration and drilling can start, Ellinas said.

Greece hopes that the agreement between Athens and Cairo will effectively nullify an accord between Turkey and the internationally recognised government of Libya. Last year, Turkey and Libya agreed to maritime boundaries in a deal Cairo and Athens decried as illegal and a violation of international law. Greece maintains it infringed on its continental shelf and specifically that off the island of Crete.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said the deal between Greece and Egypt falls in the area of Turkey’s continental shelf and violated Libya’s maritime rights.

Constantinos Filis, director of research at Institute of International Relations, told New Europe on August 7 Turkey and Greece were close in revitalising the exploratory talks on the demarkation of maritime zones. “Under the new circumstances, Ankara will freeze them, without providing a timeline. This entails that we should expect more tensions but I don’t think that we will reach a point of no return or that a ‘hot’ incident will emerge,” Filis said. Still, it seems possible that both the Turkish government and the government of Tripoli, which unfortunately acts as a puppet of the former, will rush to issue licenses to (Turkish state oil company) TPAO for blocks near Rhodes, Karpathos and Kassos as well as south of Crete. Then, Ankara might ask Athens to enter in the exploratory talks, in order to prevent seismic surveys in the aforementioned places,” he added.

Filis argued that the dire condition of the Turkish economy makes rapprochement with the European Union imperative. He noted that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, despite his rhetoric, has to improve ties with the Europeans, if he wants to restore credibility and attract foreign capital. “So, under the current circumstances, he should have no desire to enter into ‘adventures’ with Greece and the EU,” Filis said.

Tensions between Athens and Ankara flared up recently after Turkey said it would send a seismic research vessel into an area south of the Turkish coastal city of Antalya and the Greek island of Kastellorizo.

Ellinas reminded that Ankara since said it will hold off on the survey as both countries planned to revitalise talks. “Following Germany’s intervention, last week Turkey ‘paused’ activities to carry out offshore surveys near the Greek islands, south of Kastellorizo, in order to enable dialogue with Greece to address the disputes between the two countries,” he said, adding that it is not now clear how Turkey intends to proceed. Reportedly, not only it denounced the EEZ delineation agreement between Egypt and Greece, but it also terminated preparatory discussions with Greece. “This could be an over-reaction, but it is perhaps in line with Turkey’s approach to these issues – to enforce its views through intimidation and aggression,” Ellinas said, adding, “The only sensible way forward is dialogue. Let’s hope that this will eventually prevail”.

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Netanyahu, Gantz sign coalition deal to form emergency government



Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz have announced that they have forged a deal to form an emergency coalition government, aimed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement comes after months of political paralysis in the country.

“I promised the state of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu tweeted.

Under the three-year deal, both leaders will switch positions, with Netanyahu serving as prime minister for the first half, and Gantz taking the job for the second half. Gantz’s Blue and White party will take control of a number of senior government ministries, including foreign affairs and defence, while Netanyahu’s Likud party will gain influence over judicial appointments.

“We have prevented a fourth election. We will protect democracy. We will fight coronavirus and care for all Israel’s citizens”, Gantz said.

The deal comes after Gantz and Netanyahu missed the deadline to form a government, and president Reuven Rivlin asked the parliament to choose a new prime minister, giving it three weeks to agree upon a leader or push the country into a fourth election in about a year.

According to the deal, no laws are to be introduced that have nothing to do with the coronavirus. However, Netanyahu will be allowed to annex Jewish settlements and other land in the occupied West Bank. The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Palestinians condemned the formation of an “Israeli “annexation” government, saying the agreement would wreck hopes of peace.



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#Brexit – UK open to looser ‘Australia-style’ trade deal with EU: source


“There are only two likely outcomes in negotiation – a free trade deal like Canada or a looser arrangement like Australia – and we are happy to pursue both,” the source said.

Johnson is due to give a major speech on trade on Monday, following Britain’s departure from the EU on Friday after nearly 50 years of membership.

Previously Johnson has said his main goal is to reach a Canada-style trade deal with the EU before an 11-month transition period expires at the end of the year, after which British firms would face tariffs to sell goods to the EU.

But Johnson has also said Britain will not commit to continue following EU rules after the transition period, and Saturday’s remarks suggest he is growing less willing to make the trade-offs that many businesses want to smooth a deal.

Canada does not follow EU rules, but some EU governments are reluctant to give Britain similar leeway to diverge on labour and environmental standards, given the much greater trade volumes involved.

In some areas, such as the minimum wage, maternity leave and the elimination of single-use plastics, British standards significantly exceed EU minimums.





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A deal for the Bay is finally close, but is the retailer even worth saving?


The Financial Post takes a look at 11 people and companies we’ll be watching closely in the new year.

It is 4 p.m., precisely a week before Christmas at a Hudson’s Bay store at the corner of Yonge and Bloor in downtown Toronto. The area is one of the city’s biggest shopping destinations during the busiest season of the year. But the Bay is dreary.

Most of the fluorescent lights are burnt out in the men’s fragrances department. A level up, in women’s wear, the mannequins outnumber the humans. Dozens more lights are out, others are flickering and one is buzzing, while the ceiling panels are stained black by either dust or smoke, it’s difficult to tell.

The carpet, too, has curious stains. A splotch beside a rack of Adrianna Papell dresses looks like a lady dancing. And the renovation work on the hotel next door groans through the floor, thudding, thrashing, scratching.

This is the Bay on the edge of the so-called Mink Mile, a magnet for the city’s fanciest shoppers. This is also a little piece of what two warring factions of investors, bankers and Bay Street lawyers have been fighting for months to control.

Late Friday, Hudson’s Bay Co.’s chairman Richard Baker and his group of shareholders announced they were raising their bid for the department store chain by $75 million, to $11 a share or $1.18 billion in total. That increase was enough for the takeover bid’s loudest opponent and HBC’s largest minority shareholder, Catalyst Capital Group Inc., which pledged to support the deal when it’s put to a vote.

The Bay store at Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto.

The Bay store at Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto.

Peter J. Thompson/National Post files

And with that, the takeover battle for Canada’s oldest company — older than the country by 197 years — appears close to a conclusion, but amid all the talk around the fate of the historic Canadian retailer, a nagging question remains: Is the Bay actually worth saving?

Industry observers say it would take some combination of closing certain stores, shrinking others and making drastic improvements to the in-store experience — meaning improved service, cleaner stores and a better mix of brands — to make the Bay relevant again.

But even then, it might be too late.

“Do I think in its current state it can survive? No,” said Fred Waks, a former president of RioCan REIT who has spent decades developing shopping centres.

If you want to know why the Bay, unchanged, will die, Waks invites you to walk into one of the stores and look around.

“You look at the floors and you look at the ceilings and you look at the fixtures,” he said. “To find somebody to help you is extremely rare.”

Do I think in its current state it can survive? No

Fred Waks, a former president of RioCan REIT

Up till now, HBC has been frank about its survival prospects if shareholders reject Baker’s offer. Left on the public market, the argument goes, HBC would struggle to find support for the expensive, time-consuming work of overhauling the business, repurposing real estate and improving its e-commerce efforts.

Since Baker first announced the takeover bid this summer, Catalyst has been the main shareholder standing in his way. Arguing that Baker was undervaluing the company, Catalyst launched a competing bid of its own.

Baker and Catalyst then traded barbs in a seemingly endless stream of press releases until, last month, Catalyst succeeded in delaying a vote on the bid altogether by complaining to the Ontario Securities Commission.

HBC Chairman Richard Baker in 2015.

HBC Chairman Richard Baker in 2015.

Peter J. Thompson/National Post files

Baker’s new offer rescues what looked like a doomed deal since Catalyst, with a 17-per-cent stake, boasted enough allies to derail the old bid in a shareholder vote, which required support from a majority of minority shareholders.

For months, Baker’s group refused to budge, insisting $10.30 was their “best and final offer” and declining to entertain outside bids. But Friday’s revised bid — the third in a series of Baker group offers, starting at $9.45 in June — matched what Catalyst was itself willing to pay for HBC.

At $11 per share, Catalyst’s 32.3 million shares are worth $22.6 million more than they were at $10.30 per share. With Catalyst now onside, Baker’s group of shareholders — a handful of international investors, including the Emirate of Abu Dhabi and Boston-based Abrams Capital Management LP — have surpassed a major hurdle.

A special committee of HBC’s board of directors have endorsed Baker’s offer as the best, most plausible way forward. But there are still some barriers to the deal. In light of the new offer, the committee is seeking an updated valuation and fairness opinion on the company. HBC is allowed to terminate Baker’s $11-per-share deal if it’s below the new fairness opinion’s formal valuation range. The deal also needs to pass a shareholder vote.


A customer holds a shopping bag inside the Hudson’s Bay Co. flagship store in Toronto.

Cole Burston/Bloomberg files

But HBC’s challenges do not end if and when the deal closes.

“The retail environment is deteriorating,” special committee chair David Leith told shareholders in a November letter.

In the year and a half since Helena Foulkes took over as chief executive, HBC has rid itself of underperforming assets so it can focus on its core businesses — the Bay and Saks Fifth Avenue — while closing Home Outfitters and selling off Lord and Taylor, as well as the Gilt e-commerce business and HBC’s European operations.

But still, it wasn’t enough to stop HBC’s stock from tanking, Leith said in December. Over five years, the price fell about 64 per cent, to around $6 in June, before Baker’s take-private bid was announced. In a call with investors in December, Foulkes acknowledged the Bay’s biggest issues: hard-to-find staff and hard-to-navigate stores.

“We’re fixing the fundamentals of the store environment,” she said.

Foulkes is also in the middle of cutting down the Bay’s mix of brands, culling 600 older, more conservative ones, and replacing them with 75 designer labels. For those new brands, the Bay is focusing on getting them from places such as South Korea and Scandinavia, instead of the traditional fashion markets of London, Paris and Milan.

But fixing the business will take cutting more than brands, said Kathleen Wong, a retail analyst at Veritas Investment Research.

“It’s tough,” she said last month. “There are way too many stores.”

The Hudson's Bay flagship store in Toronto.

The Hudson’s Bay flagship store in Toronto.

Cole Burston/Bloomberg files

For years, Wong said, HBC seemed intent on expanding, adding new banners and pushing into new markets while its flagship brand, the Bay, floundered. The Bay currently has 89 department stores across Canada, but reducing that footprint is complicated.

“When you look at it, it’s a bit late now,” she said. “If HBC wants to get out now, who’s going to buy the real estate?”

One major problem is that the properties were built for department stores and, lately, department stores have not been strong tenants. In more suburban areas, the Bay tends to be an anchor tenant in shopping malls, and locked into hefty long-term leases. Again, it’s tough to move a footprint of that size.

“It’s not like you can just whip out a pad of paper and decide you’re going to move out of some of these locations,” said Michael LeBlanc, a former executive at HBC in the early 2000s who now runs M.E. LeBlanc & Co., a retail consultancy. “They’re decades-long leases and who’s gonna buy them?”

The other issue with maintaining such a vast cluster of sprawling department stores is that it takes a lot of money to run. You need the staff and the budget to, say, replace each light bulb when it goes out. If you don’t, the whole brand reputation suffers.

Signage inside a Hudson's Bay store in Toronto.

Signage inside a Hudson’s Bay store in Toronto.

Cole Burston/Bloomberg files

“If you’ve got a big fleet like that, and you want them all to maintain the brand standard, it takes a lot of investment,” LeBlanc said. “Maybe you don’t need them to be as big as they are.”

But shrinking stores causes a similar problem: “Who gets the rest?” he asked, pointing out that it takes time and investment to redevelop parts of stores for new tenants.

But regardless of the size, the stores just need to look and operate better, said Waks, the retail real estate developer, who now runs Trinity Development Group Inc.

“If you don’t put the capital in real estate,” he said, “you do not get the productivity.”

The best example of that, Waks said, is the Bay at Yonge and Bloor. It’s in a prime shopping location and yet it doesn’t appear to have been upgraded in years.

Why on Earth is anyone going to shop there based on the shopping experience?

Fred Waks

“Why on Earth is anyone going to shop there based on the shopping experience?” he said, also pointing out that a flagging department store is at risk of losing the best brands.

In a neighbourhood such as the Mink Mile, brands have other options. The luxury department store Holt Renfrew is down the street. And major brands such as Chanel and Versace have their own stores in nearby Yorkville.

“They don’t want to downplay their brand,” Waks said. “You have to show them that you’ve got the customer base and the sales and the ability to move their wares.”

If not, the brand pulls out, giving customers one less reason to shop in the store. As fewer customers come, more brands stay away, sending the store spiralling further and further, until it looks something like the Bay on Bloor: dowdy, dirty and empty.

“If you don’t invest,” Waks said, “you lose.”

Financial Post

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COP25: Longest climate talks end with compromise deal


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Kiara Worth/IISD

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Some of the difficult issues proved impossible to resolve in Madrid

The longest United Nations climate talks on record have finally ended in Madrid with a compromise deal.

Exhausted delegates reached agreement on the key question of increasing the global response to curbing carbon.

All countries will need to put new climate pledges on the table by the time of the next major conference in Glasgow next year.

Divisions over other questions – including carbon markets – were delayed until the next gathering.

What was agreed?

After two extra days and nights of negotiations, delegates finally agreed a deal that will see new, improved carbon cutting plans on the table by the time of the Glasgow conference next year.

All parties will need to address the gap between what the science says is necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, and the current state of play which would see the world go past this threshold in the 2030s.

Supported by the European Union and small island states, the push for higher ambition was opposed by a range of countries including the US, Brazil, India and China.

However a compromise was agreed with the richer nations having to show that they have kept their promises on climate change in the years before 2020.

Huge pressure on UK

Next year’s big climate conference will be held in Glasgow, Scotland – and that heaps enormous pressure on UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

He’s already been warned by environmentalists that he will be “humiliated” if he tries to lead other nations whilst the UK is still failing to meet its own medium-term climate targets.

The UK’s climate advisers warn that tens of millions of homes must be insulated.

Other experts say Mr Johnson’s £28.8m road-building plans are not compatible with eliminating CO2 emissions.

They say even fully electric cars won’t solve the problem completely – and urge the government to help people walk and cycle to benefit their health and the environment.

They also say expanding aviation will increase emissions.

Mr Johnson’s Brexit decisions will play a part too. The US won’t discuss climate change in any trade deal. Meanwhile the EU is putting a border tax on countries that don’t cut greenhouse gases. It will be impossible to please both.

What is the reaction?

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was disappointed by the result.

“The international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis,” he said, quoted by AFP.

‘Another year of failure’

Meanwhile, Laurence Tubiana from the European Climate Foundation, and an architect of the Paris agreement, described the result as “really a mixed bag, and a far cry from what science tells us is needed.”

“Major players who needed to deliver in Madrid did not live up to expectations, but thanks to a progressive alliance of small island states, European, African and Latin American countries, we obtained the best possible outcome, against the will of big polluters.”

Decisions on other issues including the thorny question of carbon markets have been delayed until Glasgow.

Animated chart showing that most of the coldest 10 years compared to the 20th century average were in the early 1900s, while the warmest years have all been since 2000, with 2018 on course to be the fourth warmest year on record

This aspect of the deal was welcomed by campaigners.

“Thankfully the weak rules on a market based mechanism, promoted by Brazil and Australia, that would have undermined efforts to reduce emissions has been shelved and the fight on that can continue next year at COP26 in Glasgow,” said Mohamed Adow, with the group Power Shift Africa.

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Media captionClimate change: How 1.5C could change the world

Many of those in attendance were unhappy with the overall package, feeling it did not reflect the urgency of the science.

Spain’s acting Minister for the Ecological Transition Teresa Ribera said the mandate was clear.

“Countries have to present more ambitious NDCs [nationally determined contributions] in 2020 than what we have today because it is important to address science and the demands of people, as well as commit ourselves to do more and faster.”

However, negotiators will be satisfied to have kept the process alive after these difficult and complex talks in Madrid.

What is the evidence for global warming?

The world is now nearly one degree Celsius warmer than it was before widespread industrialisation, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

The 20 warmest years on record have all occurred in the past 22 years, with the years from 2015-2018 making up the top four.

The WMO says that if the current warming trend continues, temperatures could rise by 3-5C by the end of this century.

A threshold of 2C had long been regarded as the gateway to dangerous warming. More recently, scientists and policy makers have argued that keeping temperature rise to within 1.5C is a safer limit for the world.

But an IPCC report in 2018 suggested that keeping to the 1.5C target would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.

How will climate change affect us?

There are varying degrees of uncertainty about the scale of potential impacts.

But the changes could drive freshwater shortages, bring sweeping changes to our ability to produce food, and increase the number of deaths from floods, storms, heat waves and droughts.

Even if we cut greenhouse gas emissions dramatically now, scientists say the effects will continue because parts of the climate system, particularly large bodies of water and ice, can take hundreds of years to respond to changes in temperature.

It also takes greenhouse gases decades to be removed from the atmosphere.

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Major victory for Catalyst against HBC take-private deal as OSC delays shareholder vote


The Ontario Securities Commission has decided to push back a crucial shareholder vote on the takeover of Hudson’s Bay Co., effectively freezing the transaction until the company releases a more detailed story on how the deal came together.

The decision, announced late Friday evening, marks a major victory for Catalyst Capital Group Inc., the private equity firm that has tried for months to thwart HBC chairman Richard Baker’s quest to take Canada’s oldest company private.

At the OSC, Catalyst was seeking an order to either block or stall the privatization offer, put forward by Baker and his group of majority shareholders.

After nine hours of closing arguments on Friday, the OSC’s three-person panel dismissed Catalyst’s request to block the deal. But the panel said it will require Hudson’s Bay to amend and reissue its circular, which was originally sent to shareholders last month to inform them about the deal. The weeks-long process of reissuing the circular means HBC has to postpone the upcoming vote at a shareholder meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

During the hearing — crammed into two days, so the OSC could make a decision before Tuesday’s vote — Catalyst complained that HBC didn’t properly inform shareholders about crucial detail. Catalyst paid particular focus to Baker’s involvement in a $1.5 billion deal to sell HBC’s European assets to Signa Holdings, while also contemplating a bid to takeover HBC using the proceeds from the sale.

In their recommendation to the panel, OSC staff said they were concerned with testimony from special committee chair David Leith, who told the OSC that Baker informed the board of directors in late March that he was thinking about buying the company, while the Signa deal was still in flux.

OSC staff said that a special committee should have started monitoring the take-private situation immediately, since Baker had evolved “from someone who had managed the company to someone who wanted to buy the company.”

There was a clear conflict

But the special committee wasn’t formally tasked with supervising the privatization process until June 9, a day before two press releases — one announcing the Signa sale, the other announcing Baker’s take-private bid — were released within minutes of each other.

That information wasn’t in HBC’s circular about the deal last month, and it should have been, OSC staff said in their remarks toward the end of the hearing. HBC released those details in a press release last week, but staff recommended HBC still needed to send out a revised circular to quell confusion.

“(We) invite you to read the circular again knowing what you now know,” OSC lawyer Rikin Morzaria told the panel. “There was a clear conflict that put Mr. Baker’s interests directly in conflict with minority shareholders.”

HBC argued that Baker’s comment to the board about privatization was merely an idea in March, far from the concrete proposal that emerged in June. And HBC did have a special committee throughout the spring, though its mandate was to watch the Signa deal, as well as the sale of HBC’s banner Lord and Taylor.

HBC lawyer Seumas Woods implored the OSC not to make an order in the case, arguing that it would give the wrong impression that the HBC board was “with their hands caught in the cookie jar.”


HBC chairman Richard Baker.

Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press/File

“Somebody merely expresses an interest and you’ve got to go down this (special committee) route? That is not a message you want to send to the markets,” Woods said, before the panel made its decision. “The mere fact that you make an order in this case is sending a message that the special committee did not do their job properly and they require adult supervision.”

Baker group lawyer Eliot Kolers said ordering a revised circular would be “a very dangerous road to go down.”

“Mr. Baker, at no time, acted in a clandestine manner,” Kolers said.

He accused Catalyst of pursuing its own economic interests and interfering in a chance for other minority shareholders to extract cash value from the struggling department store chain.

Baker’s group of majority shareholders is offering $10.30 per share in the deal, which has been approved by the HBC board of director’s special committee in charge of vetting the privatization bid. Catalyst announced a competing bid, for $11 per share, which the special committee dismissed as a non-starter last month after the Baker group declined to sell its 57 per cent stake.

“They’re holding this process hostage,” Kolers said.

The OSC will file a formal order by the middle of next week. After the panel deliberated for 15 minutes, OSC vice-chair Grant Vingoe said the order will outline what disclosures need to be included in the new circular, to be mailed to shareholders. In the interim, HBC agreed to postpone Tuesday’s shareholder meeting.





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