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Antsy corporate giants and angry sheep farmers: Brexit turns torturous for Theresa May

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: financial worries about Brexit start to bite in Britain; families of the Ukrainian sailors detained by Russia are growing impatient with the courtroom delays and want their loved ones back.

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, head to a meeting at the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels Wednesday. (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • Businesses and their capital are taking flight from the U.K. as the Brexit deadline draws near.
  • Families of the Ukrainian sailors detained by Russia are growing impatient with the courtroom delays and want their loved ones back.
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Brexit exodus

With little more than a month left until the U.K.'s Brexit deadline — and still no deal in sight — businesses and their capital are taking flight.

Aviva, the U.K.'s second-largest insurer, won a London court's permission this morning to move  €9 billion ($13.46 billion Cdn) to Dublin in advance of a potential hard U.K. crash out of the European Union on March 30. The company had earlier won approval to move an additional $1.72 billion to a safe European home, in order to keep paying out to customers in EU member states.

The news comes a day after Honda announced that it will close its only U.K. factory in 2021, moving production of its popular Civics to Japan, North America and China, and cutting 3,500 jobs.  

The banking sector, which accounts for about 7 per cent of the U.K.'s GDP and employs close to a million people, has also been busy shifting business to members of the continental block. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley are relocating some operations to Frankfurt. The Bank of America brokerage arm is headed for Paris.

British insurance giant Aviva won court approval Wednesday to move billions in assets to Dublin as fears of a rocky Brexit grow. (Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images)

Dublin, Luxembourg and Amsterdam are also cashing in. The Dutch have been doing particularly well, attracting €291 million in new investment and almost 2,000 jobs from 42 relocating companies in a variety of sectors, according to government report released yesterday, while talks continue with 250 other firms.

Britain's aerospace industry is decrying Brexit. Regional airline Flybmi is blaming the uncertainty for its decision to file for bankruptcy last weekend. And Airbus is saying that a no-deal exit will be "absolutely catastrophic" for its bottom line, despite having spent "tens of million of euros" preparing.

Sheep farmers  are seeking millions in payouts from the British government in order to avoid a mass cull of their flocks should they suddenly lose access to the bulk of their customers in Europe.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Theresa May is in Brussels again today, seeking a compromise on the Irish border.

The welcome was less than warm.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, is holding firm, saying that he doesn't expect any "breakthrough" in the talks.

And with a divorce looming, European powers seem to be going out of their way to make an already uncomfortable situation downright torturous for May. A Spanish demand that the British territory of Gibraltar be referred to as a "colony" in a piece of legislation might now result in U.K. citizens having to purchase $90 visas to enter Europe starting in April.

At home, things are even worse for the British PM.

Today, three of her Conservative backbenchers defected to a new group of independent, anti-Brexit MPs, joining eight former members of Labour. With 11 seats, the non-party is now tied with the Liberal Democrats, and it boasts one more vote than the Democratic Unionist Party, which has been propping up the Tory minority government.

All of which will make it even harder for May to get any sort of Brexit deal through parliament ahead of the end-of-March deadline.

Opinion polls suggest that support in Britain for leaving the EU is softening, with 54 per cent of respondents now saying they want to remain in Europe, versus 46 per cent in favour of leaving.

A high court justice ruled Wednesday that the European Medicines Agency can't break its lease in London's Canary Wharf business district that runs until 2039. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Britain has racked up one Brexit win, however.

A high court justice ruled today that the European Medicines Agency, which started relocating its headquarters to Amsterdam last month, can't break its £500 million lease at London's Canary Wharf.

The decision means that the EU will have to keep paying rent until 2039, and it sets a precedent for other agencies and businesses decamping for Europe.

A windfall worth billions to British landlords.

Frustration in Ukraine

Families of the Ukrainian sailors detained by Russia are growing impatient with the courtroom delays and want their loved ones back, CBC's Moscow correspondent Chris Brown writes.

The scene at the Moscow courthouse when 24 captured Ukrainian sailors appeared for a bail hearing was pandemonium.

All day long, on four floors and in multiple courtrooms, the sailors captured by Russia in the now-notorious Kerch Strait incident were ushered in and out of prisoner cages to hear the pre-ordained verdicts from judges appointed by the FSB (the secret police): ongoing detention, no bail, back to jail.

For the families of the men, the ordeal was excruciating. Many had travelled on an overnight train from Kiev to see their sons, brothers and husbands for the first time in months.

The Ukrainian sailors were taken into custody by Russia after the ships were rammed, shot at and boarded in late November. The Putin government accuses their vessels of violating Russian territory, and Russia's president has indicated he's in no hurry to let the crews return home.

Ukrainian sailors Sergei Chuliba (left) and Yuri Bezyazichny (far right) in the prisoners cage in a Moscow courtroom earlier this month. (Corinne Seminoff/CBC)

For more than eight hours that day, CBC Moscow producer Corinne Seminoff moved from courtroom to courtroom, talking to families and lawyers for the sailors.

As exhaustion for all was setting in, she caught a glimpse of Lyuba Chuliba, mother of 28-year-old Sergei, rushing towards her son as he exited the courtroom.

He was guarded by a heavyset soldier with a balaclava and a camouflage uniform. Nonetheless, she threw her arms around her son, kissed him on the cheek and said she loved him, as Seminoff videoed the encounter.

Afterwards, Chuliba told CBC News she has been reluctant to say anything publicly about her son's incarceration and treatment by Russian authorities, as there could be reprisals.

But with the weeks in prison turning into months, she has decided maybe it's time to break her silence.

A mother's worry

CBC News

2 years ago
Lyuba Chuliba questions the threat Ukrainian sailors posed to Russia 0:25

Our crew from CBC's Moscow bureau is just back from southern Ukraine where they spoke to two families with sons in Russian detention. They share their anger, fear and worries that the world has forgotten about them. That's tonight on The National.

- Chris Brown

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A few words on ... 

Lost and sound.

Quote of the moment

"It's their right to think how they want. But can they count? I'm sure they can. Let them count the speed and the range of the weapons systems we are developing."

- Vladimir Putin says that new American nuclear weapons will be met with Russian missile systems that target the West's "centres of decision-making."

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers his state-of-the-nation address in Moscow on Wednesday. In addition to criticizing the U.S. for abandoning a key arms control pact, Putin also decried American sanctions aimed at Russian individuals and organizations. (Alexander Zemlianichenko/Associated Press)

What The National is reading

  • Venezuela closes key border points amidst growing aid crisis (CNN)
  • 'Very concerning': Senate watchdog hasn't finished an ethics probe since 2017 (CBC)
  • Swiss bank fined $5.5 billion in French tax fraud case (BBC)
  • Family of MAGA teen launches $250 million defamation suit (Washington Post)
  • Israel to launch first privately funded moon mission (Guardian)
  • Macron's orgy of psychotherapy deflates yellow vest movement (Politico EU)
  • Former top Chinese general jailed for life for corruption (South China Morning Post)
  • Prenatal forest fire exposure stunts child growth (Science Daily)
  • Why microwaving grapes creates a dazzling plasma light show (CBC)

Today in history

Feb. 20, 1990: How Mike Myers created Wayne Campbell

The roots of Wayne's World are firmly planted in Scarborough, Ont., says Mike Myers. "It's an adolescent, suburban heavy metal thing." But the appeal of "hanging out and being a goof" is universal, he argues. He's missing Toronto and the Leafs, but his newfound Saturday Night Live fame has its benefits, like striking up a friendship with the Wayne who Canadians really care about: Gretzky.

How Mike Myers came up with Wayne Campbell

Digital Archives

31 years ago
Comedian Mike Myers explains the inspiration for his famous Wayne Campbell character. 5:01

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Jonathon Gatehouse

CBC Investigative Journalist

Jonathon Gatehouse has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, covering seven Olympic Games and authoring a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey. He works for the national investigative unit in Toronto.