When Theresa May announced that she would head to Florence for her first notable speech on Brexit in months, many wondered what Friday's address will unveil about the UK’s so-far messy departure from the EU. But given May’s speech is the only reason the PM is travelling to Italy, why did she choose the Tuscan capital for such a symbolic address? Her spokesman has attributed her decision to a willingness to connect with Europe’s historical heart and the city’s (somewhat anachronistic) identity as a European trading centre. But rather than harking back to the illuminated age of the Renaissance, this decision feels like the dodging of more obvious but perhaps uncomfortable options such as Berlin and Paris. Her presence in Florence also highlights another, slightly problematic tie between the UK and Italy: 65,000 British expats live in the belpaese and for many, Tuscany is the preferred choice. Their destiny adds another layer to the intrigue surrounding Friday.
The transport links between Seattle and Vancouver may soon get a novel new addition: a seaplane service. The proposals, which have been launched by the Vancouver-based floatplane company Harbour Air, would zoom between Vancouver and downtown Seattle four times per day. The proposals are a nod to the blossoming business relationship between the two cities. Seattle’s long-established technology sector is increasingly being mirrored north of the border; Microsoft is reportedly seeking to expand its presence in Vancouver at a major site opened last year, and the city is among those bidding to host Amazon’s second headquarters. The seaplane plans are being reviewed by Canada’s border agency and, if approved, the commuter service should begin in 2018.
Electioneering in New Zealand has entered its final week and the polls show a tight race ahead of Saturday’s vote. Prime minister Bill English of the ruling National party has narrowed the gap on Labour’s Jacinda Ardern, whose meteoric rise as main opposition leader has lost some of its glow. Ardern will be hoping that Jacindamania gets a second wind as she campaigns today in the marginal seat of Whanganui and then attends a student rally in Wellington on Tuesday, before heading up to Auckland for Wednesday’s final television debate with English. The identity of the country’s next prime minister will likely depend upon which of the two main parties can form a coalition government but an equally close battle is emerging between potential suitors. New Zealand First’s populist leader Winston Peters has played the role of kingmaker for most of the election race but he is facing a late challenge for third place from the Greens. Come Sunday, expect the champagne to still be on ice.
Norway’s annual conference that spreads the very Scandinavian ideals of peace and prosperity is heading to the Big Apple on Tuesday. Manhattan’s Lincoln Center will welcome leaders from across media, business, academia and philanthropy for a range of discussions, exhibitions and even comedy, as part of the Oslo Freedom Forum. Among the invitees: chessman turned Russian opposition leader and human-rights campaigner Garry Kasparov; North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho; Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef; and Maria Toorpakai Wazir, a Pakistani squash player who hid her gender so she could play sport. The one-day event marks the first time that the forum has travelled to New York – a worthy endeavour. The only caveat is that it coincides with the global shindig that is the general debate of the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, at the UN’s headquarters in the city. Given all that's happening in the word, it may well be overshadowed.
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