Dutch engineers build world's biggest sun-seeking solar farm
The 15 floating solar islands will possess sunflower-like ability to turn to face the sun
Dutch engineers are building what will be the world's largest archipelago of islands made up of sun-tracking solar panels.
Growing resistance to the construction of wind turbines or fields of solar panels on land has led the renewable energy industry to look for alternative options. Large islands of solar panels are under construction or already in place in reservoirs and lakes across the Netherlands, China, the UK and Japan.
Related: Renewable energy will be world's main power source by 2040, says BP Continue reading...

'Amsterdam is a cat city pretending to be a dog' – a cartoon
A dog city comes to you with its tail wagging, but cat cities like Amsterdam are more reticent and harder to judge, says artist Jan Rothuizen
All illustrations translated by Jonathan Reeder
My drawings are best described as written maps or graphic reportages. These pieces are from my book The Soft Atlas of Amsterdam. The title is a reference to Soft City, a book written in 1974 by British author Jonathan Raban. His idea is that the city is where the solid concrete reality of buildings and asphalt meets the malleable, subjective experience and expectation of the people who live and work there.
When I became an artist I discovered that the confined space of a studio was not for me. Walking around the city streets, meeting people was my way of being an artist. I visited many cities before I explored Amsterdam, the city in which I was born and raised.
Related: Self-made superheroes and street naps: Manila – a cartoon Continue reading...

Stolen Van Gogh works return to public display after 17 years
Restored paintings go on view in Amsterdam, bringing story of infamous art heist to a close
Seventeen years after being snatched from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, two of the artist's works have been put back on public display, bringing the story of one of most infamous postwar art heists to a close.
View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen by Vincent van Gogh were stolen in the dark of a December night in 2002.
Related: Gangsters' use of paintings as currency shows a profound belief in art Continue reading...

Erwin Olaf: photography's Dutch master – in pictures
From nightlife-fuelled provocateur to Rembrandt-inspired portraitist, Erwin Olaf – 60 this year – continues to approach his subject with theatrical flair Continue reading...

Amsterdam's last floating florist closes, blaming tourists
Stallholder at Bloemenmarkt for 45 years says people taking pictures crowd out his regulars
The last florist at Amsterdam's floating flower market, the Bloemenmarkt, is shutting shop, blaming large groups of tourists for crowding out his customers and the changing nature of the historical city centre.
Michael Saarloos, whose family began selling flowers at the market on the Singel canal in 1943, said he was being drowned out by cheap stalls and tourism.
Related: My Amsterdam is being un-created by mass tourism | Joost de Vries Continue reading...

Dutch fertility doctor 'secretly fathered at least 49 children'
DNA tests show Jan Karbaat, who died in 2017, used his own sperm instead of donors'
A deceased Dutch doctor mired in a fertility scandal fathered at least 49 children, an organisation representing parents and children born through IVF at his now-closed clinic has said.
Jan Karbaat, who died in 2017, is the direct father of 49 children born after women visited his Rotterdam clinic, where he used his own sperm instead of that from a chosen donor to inseminate them, Defence for Children said.
Related: The man who may have secretly fathered 200 children Continue reading...

Brexit: Labour accuses government of failure to compromise in talks - as it happened
Rolling coverage of the day's political developments as they happen, including reaction to May's letter to Tusk asking for an article 50 extension until 30 June

That's all from us for the evening (barring any further late developments, of course). Here's a quick summary of that late-breaking story: Labour accused the government of failing to countenance meaningful changes to the Brexit deal as talks between the two parties broke up on Friday.
Jeremy Corbyn had sought major commitments on issues such as workers' rights and wanted them enshrined in law. But there was an accusation of no "real change or compromise" on the government's part.
Related: Hopes of Brexit progress fade as Labour says May has failed to compromise

After Labour said Downing Street had refused to consider meaningful changes to the deal during talks between the government and the opposition this week (see: 5.37pm), a spokesman for the prime minister has said:
We have made serious proposals in talks this week and are prepared to pursue changes to the political declaration in order to deliver a deal that is acceptable to both sides.
We are ready to hold further detailed discussions this weekend in order to seek any such changes in the run up to European Council on Wednesday. The government is determined to work constructively to deliver the Brexit people voted for, and avoid participation in the European Parliamentary elections.

Reminder: forging a Brexit deal with Labour was only one part of PM's proposal in her Tuesday statement. Failing that, she said - and repeated in Tusk letter - they could draw up, and agree to abide by, a parliamentary process for choosing Brexit options.

The Liberal Democrats' Brexit spokesman, Tom Brake, has demanded that the prime minister react to Labour's denunciation by calling a second referendum and putting her deal to the public.
The beer and sandwiches approach the prime minister took appears to have failed. Brexit is a national embarrassment and needs to be put out of its misery.
There is a clear way for the PM to get her deal through parliament and that is by putting it to the people with the option to stay in the EU.

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, will visit Dublin on Monday for talks with the Irish prime minister, Leo Varadkar.
A spokesman for the Taoiseach confirmed that Barnier and his team would travel to the Irish capital in advance of Wednesday's emergency EU summit in Brussels.
This is part of his frequent visits to EU27 capitals. The aim is to take stock of developments in London as well as the ongoing planning for a possible no-deal scenario.

Nick Boles, the former Tory MP who quit the party in response to what he felt was its intransigence over Brexit, has expressed incredulity at the news that the talks have reached an impasse:

It would be so ludicrous for the government to refuse to renegotiate the Political Declaration days before the EU considers an extension request that it makes me wonder if it can possibly be true. https://t.co/6Hc1L1glbd

In light of Labour's statement, the SNP's leader, Nicola Sturgeon, has poured more criticism on the prime minister's latest attempts to broker a workable Brexit deal:

This is similar to when I met PM on Wednesday. She wanted to know where we could compromise, but refused to indicate any compromise she might make. It is a bizarre approach from someone who made great play of wanting to find consensus - and has just wasted yet more time. https://t.co/F9zQMSPuWn

The pound is losing ground on the foreign exchanges this afternoon amid signs that much of the progress made on Brexit this week looks destined to unravel.
Sterling briefly dropped below $1.30 against the dollar after Labour said it was disappointed Theresa May had not offered "real change or compromise" over her plan to leave the EU in talks with the opposition party.

The prisons minister, Rory Stewart, has told BBC Radio 4's PM programme there was "quite a lot of life" left in the process of talks with Labour.
I know that there are going to be tensions. In truth the positions of the two parties are very, very close and where there's good will it should be possible to get this done and get it done relatively quickly.

It's understood that Labour has been pushing for changes to be made to the political declaration, with the government adopting the five key commitments Jeremy Corbyn set out in a letter to the prime minister in February – and for those to be enshrined in law. Those commitments were:

New - source tells me Government not suggesting any actual changes not just to Withdrawal Agreement, but the Political Declaration too.
Instead a clarificatory memorandum about how the Govt interprets the PD.

Given Barnier has repeatedly offered to upgrade the PD, some surprise

A bit more promised in such a memo and in the ratification legislation on workers rights.

But again NO CHANGES to the Political Declaration offered.

& even so, difficulties in how/if that would be respected by new Tory leadership.

Sky sources: Public vote mentioned in memorandum "cursorily", in sense that they would not stand in the way of a vote on a confirmatory vote

Sky sources: "It's the same two documents [Withdrawal Agreement & Polotocal Declaration]... it's not very encouraging".

Labour sources separately highly suspicious about the total lack of Cabinet resignations that would be expected if PM serious about softer/ CU style compromise

As talks over a unified approach to Brexit come to a close, Labour are accusing the government of having refused to engage in meaningful negotiation over the terms of the exit deal. A party spokeswoman has said:
We are disappointed that the government has not offered real change or compromise.
We urge the prime minister to come forward with genuine changes to her deal in an effort to find an alternative that can win support in Parliament and bring the country together.

Further to Jennifer's point (see 4.16pm) about people over-reacting to Jacob Rees-Mogg's tweet (see 10.30am), the Financial Times' Brussels bureau chief Alex Barker also says Rees-Mogg overstates the potential disruption the UK could cause.

EU need not worry too much.

1. There is no budget to veto (MFF would come in to force after UK leaves)

2. The UK can't veto further defence co-op, or EU job appointments (ask Dave)

3. Integration schemes need EU law. We're in an election year so lawmaking grinds to a halt. https://t.co/kh98e7LVQH

These are from my colleague Jennifer Rankin on what EU ambassadors think about a further article 50 extension.

The big issue at today's EU ambassadors' meeting on Brexit was how to make sure the UK "plays nice" during a long Brexit extension -- or "how can we make sure the UK doesn't pull a Jacob Rees-Mogg".

Short thread

EU ambassadors gave v cautious response to May's letter.

For some the glass was half full. 1. EP elections 2. Sincere co-operation.

For others it was a glass-half-empty kind of letter.
1. No good reason for extension 2. No guarantees on sincere co-operation

Michel Barnier was also very cautious.

He said the only thing that got the UK to move was time pressure.

France also maintained their tough line, saying the UK hadn't given any credible reason why it should get an extension.

EU diplomats also say that if Theresa May will not ask for a one-year extension, it cannot be forced to have one.

"I would be surprised if we would offer something which the UK would not ask for."

Donald Tusk's proposal was described as a "surprise" and there is a lot of work to do in national capitals to assess it. BUT no one is ruling out an extension.

All involved stress, as always, that only EU leaders can press the button on extension.

And there is a sense of ‘who knows what will happen anyway in the UK in the next five days'. As one diplomat said: "everything changes on a daily basis in the UK, so let's wait and see."

And some EU diplomats think "the Jacob Rees-Mogg issue" is overrated.

No single member state has a veto on the European commission/council pres jobs -- David Cameron would remember that an opposition of two blocks nothing.

According to Reuters, Norbert Roettgen, the head of the foreign affairs committee in the German parliament, said Theresa May's request for an article 50 extension until 30 June made no sense and was motivated by "domestic tactical manoeuvring".

Reuters has more on the French government's response to Theresa May's letter to Donald Tusk. A source close to President Macron told the agency that France was not ready to accept an extension of article 50 unless the UK presented a clear plan for the future and added: "We're not there today."
And Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, told reporters in Bucharest:
If we are not able to understand the reason why the UK is asking for an extension, we cannot give a positive answer.

Germany's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, has also said that Theresa May needs to explain more about how she will get a Brexit plan through parliament before the EU can justify another article 50 extension. Echoing what the Dutch PM Mark Rutte said (see 3.43pm), Maas told reporters at the meeting of G7 foreign minsters in Dinard in France:
It is a difficult situation. There are, I think, many questions still to clarify in London ...
We will come together with our European colleagues at the next council meeting and come to an opinion over the question of an extension and how long such an extension should be.
The European elections are an important point in time and it is very important that they proceed in an orderly fashion. Therefore, we need great legal security and we should not endanger the legitimacy of the EU elections.

Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, told journalists at a press conference in the Netherlands today that Theresa May's letter to Donald Tusk "doesn't answer" the EU's key questions. He explained:
The plan was that the British would explain what they wanted from the EU. A letter was sent today which, as far as I am concerned, doesn't answer this request [from the EU for more information]. I hope it will be possible to give the answers to these questions.
We hope London will provide more clarity before Wednesday ...
The ball is not here in the Netherlands, or in Paris or Berlin. The ball really is in London.
If the withdrawal agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week [ie, 29 March], the European council agrees to an extension until 12 April 2019 and expects the United Kingdom to indicate a way forward before this date for consideration by the European council.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative backbencher and chair of the European Research Group, which represents up to 80 Tories pushing for a harder Brexit, told the World at One that Theresa May was abandoning the Conservative party by moving towards a softer Brexit. Asked if he had been rejected by the prime minister, Rees-Mogg said:
If that's right, the prime minister is cutting herself off not from me but 70% of Conservative voters, according to opinion polls, and an even higher percentage of Conservative members.
It doesn't seem to be very clever politics to alienate the bulk of your party to keep happy a few people who have never accepted the referendum result, and have spent their lifetime committed to the European project.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, has said that by requesting an article 50 extension just until 30 June, Theresa May is creating "potentially another cliff edge" in the process. Sturgeon told the BBC:
The sensible thing to do, in my view, and it seems as if this might be the EU's view as well, is to have a longer extension to allow time for this issue to go back to the people in another referendum rather than continue to have these short-term cliff edges.
The first priority, of course, must be to avoid a no-deal exit at the end of next week - but beyond that, give some time and space now for some sensible ways forward to be found.

Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, has said that Theresa May's letter to Donald Tusk today does not answer some of the EU's key questions, AFP's Danny Kemp reports.

Dutch PM Rutte says May's Brexit delay request letter ‘doesn't answer' key EU concerns, as German FM says many questions remain, and France says request is ‘premature' and a ‘maladroit trial balloon'. All going swimmingly, then ‍♂️

And here is my colleague Jon Henley's full story about the French government's hardline stance on the conditions that would have to be met for the UK to get another article 50 extension.
Related: France maintains hardline stance on no-deal Brexit

Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, has criticised Theresa May's decision to request a further article 50 extension until 30 June. In a statement, Foster said it was a mistake to rule out no-deal and that the government should not be "subcontracting the UK's future to Jeremy Corbyn".
Here is the statement in full.
The prime minister's latest plea to Brussels for an extension to article 50 is unsurprising but unsatisfactory. It should not have been like this. Exiting the EU has become chaotic because of intransigence in Brussels and ineffectiveness in London.
The United Kingdom fighting European elections almost three years after a clear majority voted to leave the EU sums up the disorganised and slapdash approach taken to negotiations by the prime minister.

France has reiterated its opposition to Britain being granted any further Brexit extension if it does not have a concrete plan with clear support in the Commons, saying that without one Britain must be deemed to have chosen to leave the EU without a deal.
France's minister for European affairs, Amélie de Montchalin, said in a statement: "The European council took a clear decision on 21 March … Another extension requires the UK to put forward a plan with clear and credible political backing." The council would then define the necessary conditions attached to that extension, she said.

Nick Brown, the Labour chief whip, went into the Cabinet Office earlier for an update on the government/Labour Brexit negotiations.
But he was not very forthcoming. This is from the BBC's Tom Barton.

Labour Chief Whip Nick Brown to @callummay:

"We've received something from the govt we're looking at now"

Q: "What sort of thing?"

A: "A piece of paper"

And this is what the Lib Dem Brexit spokesman, Tom Brake, said about May's letter to Tusk.
This is yet another desperate move from a failing prime minister.
The EU has been clear that we must have a clear purpose for any extension.

And this is from Plaid Cymru's Brexit spokesman, Hywel Williams, on Theresa May's letter to Donald Tusk. He said:
When will the prime minister realise? She is boxed in and the only way out is to put it back to the people.
The EU has been clear all along, extension requires a reason. It has become evident that an extension to allow for a people's vote is the easiest, most logical and democratically legitimate way out of this mess.

The Tory Brexiter John Redwood has restated his opposition to any further extension of article 50.

No more delays. The government should just get on with leaving the EU on 12 April. Offer a free trade agreement and go. The talks with Mr Corbyn cannot result in an outcome that honours Brexit and pleases Leave voters.

Angela Merkel gave the clear impression that the EU would continue to support Ireland when she met cross-border communities in private yesterday before her meeting with Leo Varadkar, according to one of those present.
The German chancellor met representatives from the farming and health sectors as well as family members of victims of the Troubles.
For 34 years I lived behind the Iron Curtain so I know only too well what it means once borders vanish, once walls fall.

Here is a roundup of some of the best commentary I've seen on the Newport West byelection result. (See 11.27am.)
This is from Prof Sir John Curtice, the psephologist who masterminds the exit polls used by broadcasters at general election. It is what he told the BBC's Politics Live programme earlier.
No byelection should be interpreted too closely on its own. What's interesting about the pattern in Newport West is that it is consistent with the expectations one might have had, given what the national opinion polls have been saying recently, which is a decline in the combined level of support for Conservative and Labour, with Ukip back to roughly the level that they were before the 2017 elections.
[The swing from Labour to the Tories] frankly ... is irrelevant. Both parties are down, and both parties are losing ground in the wake of the Brexit saga. The Conservatives are particularly clearly losing their support amongst their leave voters, and it is going towards Ukip. Newport West is consistent with that story in the polls.
I'm afraid I am unable to subscribe to the view that the Newport West byelection was a matter of little consequence, was "a good hold" for Labour; and in the words of Jeremy Corbyn "sends a clear message that the people of Newport and Wales are fed up of austerity ... and shows support for Labour's alternative".
Words do and should matter.
So a comfortable hold for Labour, but the interesting story is what has happened to the vote share of both of the big two: they're both down at the expense of the smaller parties ...
It could be a sign that the two-party polarisation of the 2017 election is not the new reality of British politics but a brief detour along the United Kingdom's long journey to multi-party politics.


PLAID: 1185
RENEW: 879
UKIP: 2023
LABOUR: 9308
LIB DEM: 1088
SDP: 202
GREEN: 924

MAJ: 1951

Both Lab and Tory share down. Eaten up by UKIP, Plaid and LD.


- I'm amazed at stickiness of the Tory vote, given, you know, chaos.
- Mixed, mixed messages for Corbyn's Labour.
- 2017 might have been high watermark of 2 party politics, voters fracturing again (combined Lab+Tory vote 70% in 2019, was 90%+ in 2017)

-on plus side for Labour, there's an extra vote in the opposition lobbies on every vote in the Commons from Monday. And right now, they all count.

It's just one by-election on a wet April day so we shouldn't overinterpret. Paul Flynn was a popular MP and had a personal vote. nonetheless warning signs for both main parties, esp. Labour.

Leave aside Brexit- losing vote share in the ninth year of opposition is bad.


With Theresa May confirming that, for the moment at least, the European parliamentary elections are going ahead, Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, has said that he will stand for his new Brexit party. He told Sky News:
I'll be leading the Brexit party into those European elections as it now looks certain they will happen.
Am I happy about it? No I'm not - actually I've got many other things in my life I'd like to do. I thought we'd won the Brexit battle but I'm not going to, after 25 years of endeavour, watch British politicians roll us over.

Jeremy Corbyn has been speaking at the Pill Mill leisure centre in Newport West to celebrate Ruth Jones's byelection win.

On Brexit he said:
We are putting forward an agenda which is about maintaining our market relationship with Europe and, above all, defending our rights and regulations which are so important to underpin the basics of employment standards in this country. Those are things we are absolutely insisting on. It's the job of the Labour party to unite people whether they voted leave or remain.
He didn't want two jobs, he didn't want to be working that way. It was the only way he could keep his family together, a wonderful man doing his best for his family. That is modern Britain – universal credit impoverishing people.
The government claims there is more people in work than ever. Many of those are on insecure work, low pay, two jobs just to try to make ends meet. It's got to change. That's why the fundamentals of Ruth's campaign were opposition to austerity and opposition to the cuts that have been made in so many areas.

Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, has said that the UK may end up having "no choice" but to accept a long article 50 extension. Speaking to the BBC, he said:
It's obviously not optimal to have any extension at all and we have a plan to leave the EU and deliver on the referendum result which we put before parliament a number of times.
We still hope to leave the EU in the next couple of months, that's our ambition, we don't have a majority in parliament, and that means that we have to have these discussions with Jeremy Corbyn to see if there is enough common ground to do that.
If we can't find a way through with parliament, then we have no choice.

Guy Verhofstadt, the European parliament's lead Brexit spokesman, has always been quite hostile to the idea of the UK being granted a long article 50 extension. Jacob Rees-Mogg's tweet this morning (see 10.30am) seems to be making him even more convinced that letting the UK stay for the rest of 2019 would be a mistake.

For those in the EU who may be tempted to further extend the #Brexit saga, I can only say, be careful what you wish for. https://t.co/wVmdxQubgj

Brexit talks are continuing between the government and Labour, No 10 has said, but they involve phone calls and smaller meetings rather than "full teams sitting down with each other".
At the regular briefing, Theresa May's spokesman gave very few details, saying the talks could continue into the weekend.
It's an ongoing process, we're taking one discussion at a time. We continue to focus on trying to reach a joint outcome that we can put to the European council.

The People's Vote campaign, which is calling for a second referendum on Brexit, has also criticised Theresa May's decision to request another article 50 extension. It has released this statement from the Labour former foreign secretary Dame Margaret Beckett.
The good news is that the prime minister has accepted there has to be an extension to the Brexit deadline. The bad news is that yet again she has chosen the worst option and done so for the worst reason – just to keep her failed strategy and her Brexit deal alive.
She is asking for the same cut-off date for an article 50 extension that was rejected before by the European council. She is trying to browbeat parliament into backing a withdrawal agreement on Brexit which would lock in the terms of the UK's departure from the EU without any decision on our eventual destination. She is taking both the British people and EU leaders for fools because we all know this is just another time-buying, can-kicking effort to hold her bitterly divided party together.

The Labour leader of Newport city council, Debbie Wilcox, said the Newport West byelection had been an election campaign like no other.
I've been an elected representative in Newport for 15 years. This election has been like no other. You feel the political turmoil on the street and when you're knocking on doors. We live in such extraordinary times. In normal times we would have been looking at a comfortable win here but this time it's been so different. I think that is a recognition that people are really feeling: ‘A plague on both their houses.' It's very difficult to get positive messages out. People who know me in my ward have said: ‘Debbie, I can't be bothered.' We unfortunately have to deal with the bite back from national politics. It's like a topsy-turvy world.
It should have happened two years ago. She should have offered that to him a long time ago.
There are some people that are angry but I would say most people feel lost. They no longer have political homes they feel comfortable in. They are looking for opportunities outside the two-party system. I think that feeling of not having a clear political home is one of the most interesting parts of this campaign.
People have been welcoming on the doorstep because we don't have the baggage others have. People are losing faith in local, regional and national politics. We have been able to talk about the real issues – austerity, schools, working families. I don't think the average voter really believes that politicians are working for them. It's been an interesting minefield to wade through.

Labour has held on to the Newport West parliamentary seat in a byelection fought against the backdrop of Brexit chaos during which all parties said they had heard anger, frustration and mistrust on the doorstep, my colleague Steven Morris reports.
Related: Newport West byelection: Labour retains seat amid Brexit chaos

Here is some more comment on Jacob Rees-Mogg's tweet.
From Lord Ashcroft, the former deputy Conservative chairman:

If you believe that the EU referendum result should be respected and the U.K. has to have a long extension then clearly this has to be part of the strategy... pic.twitter.com/5wvuUlFeyv

#Germany is already obstructing all three of those, but thanks for offering to help. https://t.co/aph4mTxwnH

And this is from the Scottish National party's Europe spokesman, Stephen Gethins, on Theresa May's letter to Donald Tusk. He said:
More than three years on from the EU referendum and the prime minister's approach is still dictated by can-kicking and chaos.
Theresa May continues to ignore Scotland and her proposal to seek a further short extension to June 30th 2019 - which the EU has already previously rejected – demonstrates beyond doubt she is putting the interests of her fractured Tory party above all else.

This is from the Green MP Caroline Lucas.

PM is at odds with reality.

EU rejected this proposal just weeks ago. We're now at the mercy of their decision.

She's also undermined talks with Labour by effectively ruling out #PeoplesVote.

Corbyn and May must deliver the time we need for the people to decide our future. https://t.co/ViUn4WNCZ6

Here is Katya Adler, the BBC's Europe editor, on how the EU is likely to respond to Theresa May's letter to Donald Tusk.

You can almost hear the sound of combined eye-rolling across 27 European capitals .. as the PM requests a #Brexit extension-time (till 30th June) that Brussels has already repeatedly rejected /1

PM knows EU will likely insist on longer extension with option to end earlier as soon as parliament has ratified #Brexit deal (see: Donald Tusk's proposed ‘flextension') BUT by asking for shorter extension she avoids further flak from ERG-ites à la "Brussels forced my hand!" /2

EU leans toward longer extension to avoid being constantly approached by the PM for a rolling series of short extensions with threat of no deal always round the corner. Message from EU "Dear Theresa, Enough of the drama already! We have other non #Brexit issues on our plate." /3

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who chairs the European Research Group, which represents hardline Brexiter Tory MPs, says if the UK does have to accept a long article 50 extension, the UK should become obstructive.

If a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU we should be as difficult as possible. We could veto any increase in the budget, obstruct the putative EU army and block Mr Macron's integrationist schemes.

How strange - isn't this the same guy who said the UK had no power to do any of these things in the EU and that's why we had to leave. https://t.co/FTLD670HBH

JRM basically appealing to Macron to think twice about waving through a long extension... https://t.co/drh8TaC9s0

One of Theresa May's defining characteristics is stubbornness. She does not give up easily. After her Brexit deal was rejected by parliament by a record number of votes, instead of adopting a new approach, she just tried a second and third time to get substantially the same deal through parliament (failing decisively both times). And last month, when it was obvious that the UK would not be able to leave the EU on 29 March as planned, she wrote to Donald Tusk, the European council president, requesting an extension of article 50 until 30 June. That request was rejected, but today, despite the UK being in an even weaker negotiating position than it was three weeks ago, she has made exactly the same request again.
So, one thing today's letter confirms is that flexibility is not one of May's virtues. But there is more to the letter than that. Here is what it tells us.
The government stands ready to abide by the decision of the house, if the opposition will commit to doing the same.
The United Kingdom accepts the European council's view that if the United Kingdom were still a member state of the European Union on 23 May 2019, it would be under a legal obligation to hold the elections. The government is therefore undertaking the lawful and responsible preparations for this contingency, including by making the order that sets the date of the poll ...
The government will want to agree a timetable for ratification that allows the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union before 23 May 2019 and therefore cancel the European parliament elections, but will continue to make responsible preparations to hold the elections should this not prove possible.

Here is the full text of Theresa May's letter to Donald Tusk (pdf).

The current deadline for a no-deal Brexit is a week today, yet Theresa May has not even scheduled another vote on her deal, and neither the House of Commons nor the House of Lords is sitting. But, away from parliament, there are important developments happening. Continue reading...

Meet Thierry Baudet, the suave new face of Dutch rightwing populism | Joost de VriesThe far right's rising star has come to prominence by convincing voters he's not as crude as Geert Wilders
For the past decade, the face of Dutch populism has been Geert Wilders, notorious for being anti-Muslim, anti‑immigrant, anti-establishment, anti-intellectual, anti-pretty much anything with three syllables or more.
Related: This is Europe: stay close with the Guardian's email updates
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Butterfly numbers fall by 84% in Netherlands over 130 years – study
European insect populations shrink as farming leaves ‘hardly any room for nature'
Butterflies have declined by at least 84% in the Netherlands over the last 130 years, according to a study, confirming the crisis affecting insect populations in western Europe.
Researchers analysed 120,000 butterflies caught by collectors between 1890 and 1980 as well as more recent scientific data from more than 2 million sightings to identify dramatic declines in the country's 71 native butterfly species, 15 of which have become extinct over the last century. Continue reading...

Revealed: Vietnamese children vanish from Dutch shelters to be trafficked into Britain
Investigation highlights failings of Dutch and UK authorities to care properly for unaccompanied minors
On a crisp winter day in a small village in the north of the Netherlands, a pile of leaves swirls around in the wind outside a brick house, an ordinary scene except for the CCTV cameras outside the front door and the occupants inside – child victims of trafficking. Many of the children are from Vietnam. They live in this protected shelter to keep them safe from gangs who want to smuggle them out of the Netherlands to the UK.
But an investigation by the Observer and Argos Radio of the Netherlands has revealed that, in the past five years, at least 60 Vietnamese children have disappeared from these shelters. Dutch police and immigration officials suspect the children end up in the UK working on cannabis farms and in nail salons.
I realised the shelter was used as a stopover on the way to England
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Art detective Arthur Brand: how I found a stolen Picasso
The man dubbed ‘Indiana Jones of the art world' says the paintings can ‘become a burden'
The ring at the door of the modest east Amsterdam apartment came late in the day on Thursday 14 March. On the doorstep stood two men "with contacts in the underworld", Arthur Brand recalls, and with them a large, rectangular package.
Eagerly, Brand removed the covering and examined the contents: Buste de femme (Dora Maar), a portrait by Pablo Picasso of his mistress. Unsigned because it was never sold by the painter, it bore in its bottom-left corner the date he completed it, 26 April 1938, and was worth an estimated €25m (£21.5m).
Related: Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy review – the year of magical painting Continue reading...

180-degree turn: Van Barneveld changes mind on darts retirement
• Van Barneveld: ‘I want to end my career at Alexandra Palace'
• ‘For months my life has been a rollercoaster of emotions'
The five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld has reversed his decision to retire following "a rollercoaster of emotions."
After defeat to fellow Dutchman Michael van Gerwen on Thursday night in the Premier League, he said he did not want further "pain" and would finish playing immediately.
Related: Darts keeps dreaming big but its spirit remains rooted at Alexandra Palace
Four BDO world titles
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Dutch art detective recovers stolen Picasso painting after 20 years
Arthur Brand recognised 1938 work Buste de Femme in Amsterdam by detail on back
A Dutch art detective has said he has recovered a valuable painting by Pablo Picasso 20 years after it was stolen from a wealthy Saudi Arabian's yacht in France.
Arthur Brand told the Associated Press that he took possession of the 1938 painting Buste de Femme two weeks ago after trailing it for years in Amsterdam.
Related: Will Boston's $500m art heist ever be solved? Continue reading...

European media praise EU's plan to counter UK's Brexit 'chaos'
EU's seizing of initiative and avoidance of Theresa May's ‘trap' hailed by foreign press

Europe's media saw it only one way: faced with a fast-approaching cliff edge and chaos, confusion and vacuousness in London, the other members of the EU needed to take over the Brexit process and force the British government to face up to its choices – and they did.
"The dual-deadline mechanism agreed on in Brussels both ensures the British finally recognise Brexit is their responsibility, and obliges them to finally accept the consequences of their decision to seek a divorce," said France's Le Monde.
Related: Brexit: Macron revised chances of May winning vote to just 5% after hearing her at summit – Politics live Continue reading...

Anti-immigration populists surge in fragmented Dutch elections
FvD party on course to win 12 seats in upper house of parliament that will contain a record 12 parties
An anti-immigration populist party has won the most votes in elections for the upper house of parliament in the Netherlands, days after a shooting in Utrecht, robbing the governing coalition of its majority and forcing it to seek new alliances on the left.
In a further fragmentation of Dutch politics, the Forum for Democracy (FvD) party of Thierry Baudet, a flamboyant former academic and columnist, is on course to win 12 seats in an upper house containing a record 12 parties, none with more than 12 seats. Continue reading...

Amsterdam to ban 'disrespectful' tours of red-light district
Move is just one of measures taken to limit impact of mass tourism on historic city centre
Amsterdam is to ban guided tours of its red-light district as part of an effort to restrict the increasing throngs of visitors in its historic city centre, and because "they are not respectful" to sex workers.
"It is no longer acceptable in this age to see sex workers as a tourist attraction," city councillor Udo Kock said. A survey has shown that 80% of sex workers say gawping tourists are bad for their business and councillors last year suggested moving the red light district to another part of the city.
Related: My Amsterdam is being un-created by mass tourism | Joost de Vries Continue reading...

Fake pathologist who examined air crash victims faces jail
Man tells Dutch court he forged qualifications to work at firm specialising in disasters
A fantasist who worked as a forensic pathologist examining air crash victims and guest lecturer at a police academy is facing up to four years in jail in the Netherlands after admitting to forging his qualifications.
The man, named only as Peter B, worked for years at a firm specialising in the repatriation and identification of victims of major disasters, as well as the Dutch police and public health bodies. Continue reading...

Dutch government to investigate food safety body after 'sick cow' cases
Allegations that animals not fit for consumption are entering food chain raise doubts over Netherlands' inspection regime
An investigation into the Dutch food safety authority has been ordered by the minister of agriculture, Carola Schouten, following repeated allegations that sick cows are being slaughtered in the north of the Netherlands.
A number of cases have been brought against cattle traders and slaughterhouses for transporting and offering sick cattle for slaughter in recent years, with several consequent convictions. Now the government is to review the Dutch food safety authority (Nederlandse Voedsel en Waren Autoriteit, NVWA). The NVWA is responsible for monitoring the slaughterhouses, but questions have been raised about its effectiveness since it was established in 2012.
Related: ‘Sick cow' meat scandal in Poland: fears raised over other slaughterhouses Continue reading...

Letter in Utrecht getaway car may suggest terror motive
Firearm seized and buildings searched after suspect held over shooting that killed three

Dutch prosecutors have said they are still considering a possible terrorist motive for Monday's shooting in Utrecht, and have so far uncovered no link between the main suspect and the three people who were killed.
The regional public prosecutor's office said in a statement that the investigators' view was based on the nature of the shooting on Monday, which took place on a tram, and on a letter found in the getaway car. Continue reading...

Utrecht tram shooting suspect arrested after three killed
Five injured in Dutch city during incident that is believed to have been a family dispute

Police have arrested a man suspected of shooting three people dead and injuring five more on a tram in the Dutch city of Utrecht, apparently in a family dispute.
Turkish-born Gökmen Tanis, 37, was detained on a street in the north of the city several hours after the shooting, which happened at 10.45am local time (0945 GMT) on the central 24 Oktoberplein junction. Continue reading...