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Britain on a cliff edge: Brexit, bedlam or bust?





If a Brexit deal falls in the British Parliament and no one is around to save it, does Theresa May survive as prime minister?

Of the glut of existential questions facing Britain at this crucial moment, that is perhaps one of the easier ones to answer. If the House of Commons votes down May’s draft Brexit deal, she could well be forced to give up her tortuous turn at the premiership and step down.

But what happens after that? And could something prevent that parliamentary vote happening in the first place?

If Britain’s immediate future were made into a book, it would break records for the possible multiple endings.

Much of the uncertainty is driven by the strong opposition to May’s “soft” EU divorce deal from all political parties, including from many members of her own Conservative Party.

The draft deal includes a withdrawal agreement that sets out the divorce terms, and also includes the outlines of an agreement on the future relationship between the E.U. and the U.K. — still to be fully fleshed out.

Critics have poked holes in several parts of it. There isn’t consensus even on all the ways this could unfold in the coming days.

Here is a look at some of the possible scenarios.

Theresa May and the EU: Full steam ahead

In May’s — and the European Union’s — version, the roadmap is clear.

With discussions on the withdrawal agreement “complete,” May says she plans to spend this week in “intense” negotiations on what the future relationship between the EU and the U.K. looks like.

Leaders of the European council are then set to meet on Sunday to vote on the entire package.

“I am confident that we can strike a deal at the council that I can take back to the House of Commons,” May said Monday.

An anti-Brexit demonstrator protests outside the Houses of Parliament in London on Monday. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

May has given British lawmakers an ultimatum: vote for her deal or face chaos — perhaps even a government led by Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn.

There is a chance that ultimatum is enough to persuade nervous MPs to support the agreement on the table. Britain would then exit the EU on March 29, as planned.

But there are politicians of all stripes on Britain’s fractious political landscape who have other ideas — starting with members of May’s own Conservative Party.

Tories hold a no-confidence vote

To scuttle a deal they don’t like, more than a few Tories want to topple May as leader.

The Sun reports that 42 MPs have submitted letters to a party committee demanding a leadership confidence vote. The rules say 48 MPs have to send in letters before the vote is held.

So far, they are six letters shy. If they do, and they challenge May but she retains her leadership, she continues on her path as planned towards a vote in the Commons.

If she loses a leadership vote, both she and her deal are finished.

“What it will do is mean there is a delay to those negotiations and that’s a risk that Brexit gets delayed or frustrated,” she told Sky News on Sunday.

“This isn’t about me. This is about the national interest. The next seven days are critical.”

Removing May “will send shockwaves through the entire country,” says Joe Twyman, director of Deltapoll UK, which has done extensive polling on the Brexit pulse.

“The panic will inevitably set in and then the question will be: ‘What happens now, with only a few weeks remaining — can anything be done?’ “

The answer right now is unclear.

What if the House of Commons votes and rejects the deal?

If May is unchallenged by her party or if she wins a no-confidence vote, the deal is likely to go to the House of Commons for a vote as she planned.

Large elements of the Conservative Party, the Labour Party and the Democratic Unionist Party — which is propping up May’s government — are opposed to the deal as it stands. It’s highly unlikely to pass without changes.

Pro Brexit protesters hold placards trying to get media attention near Parliament in London on Nov. 16. (Alastair Grant/Associated Press)

If it’s defeated, May then has three weeks to make more changes to the deal. There are no guarantees the EU would be sympathetic to requests for changes.

If a new deal fails, May’s government could also face a no-confidence vote in Parliament, and if it loses that, it could mean a snap election.

That brings on a whole slew of other possible Brexit outcomes.

Can Brexit be delayed?

The date can be changed if both sides agree. It may be necessary especially if a general election is called — but it could be done now if the prime minister chooses.

The current date for Brexit is March 29, 2019. If a general election is called, that leaves little room for a new government to be formed and for making any tweaks to the deal necessary for it to win parliamentary and EU approval.

Brexit but with no deal

Both the EU and the U.K. agree this is the worst of all possible options because it risks chaos — so all efforts now are on trying to avoid it.

Still, both sides have put in contingency plans in the event Britain crashes out of the EU, although they have not yet triggered full-scale preparation.

The existing deal isn’t perfect, John Allen, head of the Confederation of British Industry, said Monday in a speech ahead of May’s remarks pitching it to their members.

But it prevents “the nightmare scenario of a no-deal departure, which would be a wrecking ball for our economy.”

A new referendum

A sizable number of MPs and a growing national movement have been pushing for a new vote.

They believe British people should have a final say on whether to leave the EU now that they have more complete information on what it will look like.

May has been adamant that this isn’t an option because the people have already spoken and the will of the majority must be respected.

Others have warned a new vote risks instability and a loss of faith in the democratic process.

A rain-damaged placard in favour of a second Brexit referendum features pictures of former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and former transport minister Jo Johnson in London on Nov. 12. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

A referendum may be an option if the country finds itself with a new government and nowhere to go in negotiations with the EU.

Some believe the developments of the past week make a referendum more plausible.

“It seems to me that it is more likely given the weakness of Theresa May’s position,” Tom Watson, deputy Labour Party leader, told The House, a political magazine.

“She leads a government without a majority. It now looks like she leads a cabinet without a majority as well.”

It’s also an option for May herself if she loses a vote in Parliament.

No Brexit

This was raised by the prime minister as a possible consequence of rejecting the existing deal, but it is unlikely unless a new referendum makes it an option.

It could be that Brexit is delayed for a long time as Britain gets its political house in order, but without a new vote the procedure that has been triggered cannot be undone.

Most likely outcome: More compromise

Britain is on a cliff’s edge and the situation defies prediction.

But could there be room for the EU and the U.K. to make slight changes to make the deal palatable to enough U.K. MPs to pass it?

May has said negotiations on the withdrawal deal are over and EU ministers insisted again Monday that the deal is set.

“There have been long months of intensive and difficult negotiations,” said Austrian EU minister Gernot Blumel.

“I believe this is the best possible compromise and I hope it will now receive consent on both sides.”

European Parliament President Antonio Tajani displays the agreement of the withdrawal of the U.K. at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on Nov. 15. (Vincent Kessler/Reuters)

However, there are a number of Brexit ministers who are reportedly trying to persuade May to make tweaks to the deal to get it through Parliament.

This may be one way to guarantee the deal sails through, says Twyman.

He suspects May “will get the deal through Parliament perhaps with one or two slight amendments,” when people “realize that actually time has run out and there is no better deal on the table.”

“It’s extraordinarily difficult to know what will happen.”


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Real Estate

7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary





Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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Real Estate

‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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Real Estate

10 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers





Buying a home for the first time is exciting and a commitment to the future. It’s often challenging, too, and the process requires a lot of steps, many of which can be tricky to navigate as a first-time home buyer.

What are some things you should keep in mind as a first-time home buyer?

First-Time Home Buyer Tips

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind as you begin your journey toward homeownership.

1. Have Your Finances in Order

It’s wise to begin saving as early as possible once you’ve made the decision to purchase a house. You’ll need to consider the down payment, closing costs (which often range from 2% to 5% of the down payment), as well as move-in expenses.

You also need to understand the other costs of homeownership, such as mortgage insurance. property taxes, utilities, homeowner’s insurance, and more.

2. How Much Can You Afford?

Knowing how much you can realistically afford in a home is another important financial consideration. Look for the home of your dreams that fits your budget.

One way to avoid future financial stress is to set a price range for your home that fits your budget, and then staying within that range. Going through the preapproval process will help you understand what price range is realistic for your budget.

3. Make Sure Your Credit is Good

Another thing to keep in mind as a first-time home buyer is your credit score because it determines whether you qualify for a mortgage and affects the interest rate that lenders offer. 

You can check your credit score from the three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion.

This is another good reason for getting preapproved before you start your search. Learn more about the preapproval process and your credit score.

4. Choose The Right Real Estate Agent

A good real estate agent guides you through the process every step of the way. He or she will help you find a home that fits your needs, help you through the financial processes, and help ease any first-time buyer anxiety you may have.

Interview several agents and request references.

5. Research Mortgage Options

A variety of mortgages are available, including conventional mortgages – which are guaranteed by the government – FHA loans, USDA loans, and VA loans (for veterans).

You’ll also have options regarding the mortgage term. A 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is popular among many homebuyers and has an interest rate that doesn’t change over the course of the loan. A 15-year loan usually has a lower interest rate but monthly payments are larger.

6. Talk to Multiple Lenders

It’s worth your time to talk to several lenders and banks before you accept a mortgage offer. The more you shop around, the better deal you’re liable to get – and it may save you thousands of dollars.

7. Get Preapproved First

Getting a mortgage preapproval (in the form of a letter) before you begin hunting for homes is something else to put on your checklist. A lender’s preapproval letter states exactly how much loan money you can get.

Learn more about the preapproval process and how preapproval provides you with a significant competitive advantage in our article How Preapproval Gives You Home Buying Power.

8. Pick the Right House and Neighborhood

Make sure to weigh the pros and cons of the different types of homes based on your budget, lifestyle, etc. Would a condominium or townhome fit your needs better than a house? What type of neighborhood appeals to you?

9. List Your Needs and Must-Haves

The home you purchase should have as many of the features you prefer as possible. List your needs in order of priority; some things may be non-negotiable to you personally.

10. Hire an Inspector

Hiring an inspector is another crucial step in the home buying process. An inspector will tell you about existing or potential problems with the home, and also what’s in good order. You can learn more about home inspections and how to find a home inspector through the American Society of Home Inspectors website.

Buying a home for the first time is a challenge, but it’s one you can handle with the right planning and preparation.

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