In the Mediterranean Sea, as many as 700 people are feared drowned after a boat carrying migrants to Europe capsized off the coast of Libya. A rescue operation is underway. The boat is understood to have capsized some time around midnight on Sunday morning local time, in Libyan waters south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. At least 900 migrants have died crossing the Meditteranean in 2015, with the Italian coastguard rescuing 10,000 migrants in the past week alone. Sunday’s accident could be the most lethal migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean in recent times. The accident has prompted fresh calls for the EU to reinstate its Italian-led Mare Nostrum operation, a search-and-rescue operation that was stopped in October 2014 and saved around 100,000 lives that year.
The Conservative Party has pledged to offer up to £4 billion worth of shares in Lloyds Bank at below-market rates to small-scale investors in the UK. The sales would occur should the party win the general election on 7 May, Prime Minister David Cameron has said. According to the Prime Minister, a sell of shares would allow the government to raise money in fighting the national debt. Labour has said that the Conservative Party had already announced the plans seven times previously. Labour and the Conservative Party continue to be neck-and-neck in the polls, with both parties on approximately 34 percent of the vote.
China’s central bank on Sunday cut the amount of money that banks must hold in reserve, the second such cut in two months. The People’s Bank of China announced that the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for all banks would be lowered to 18.5 percent effective from 20 April. The move is the latest measure taken by Chinese authorities to encourage growth and lending, by adding more liquidity to the economy. The cut in RRR is the biggest since the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, and is reported to be greater than expected.
A variety of political stories make the headlines today. The Independent on Sunday leads with news that the boss of Tesco has ‘slammed’ Conservative plans for a referendum on EU membership. John Allan, the supermarket’s chairman, warned that uncertainty over Britain’s future could drive businesses from the country. The Observer leads with news of its interview with Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband, who has issued a “call to moderate Tories”. In his call, Miliband tells Conservatives he can be a “champion” of the political centre on issues including the EU. The Sunday Times leads with news that Buckingham Palace has told politicians to “back off”; according to the paper, palace officials have warned politicians that the Queen will not get involved in political negotiations in the event of a hung parliament. The Sunday Telegraph leads with a report on “how Blair makes his millions”. According to the paper, former Prime Minister Tony Blair faces “new conflict of interest claims” over his consultancy work, which is reportedly underwritten by Abu Dhabi’s rulers.
British Media on China
On island building in the South China Sea: the emergence of satellite photos appearing to show China’s land reclamation and rapid construction of an airstrip in the South China Sea’s Spratly Islands received some coverage around the weekend. The Guardian reports that the airstrip has “already stretched to 500m and had room to grow to six times that length”. The Daily Telegraph quotes a conversation between Professor Peter Dutton and the New York Times, saying that “The airstrip would allow China to intimidate its rivals militarily in the region”. The BBC writes that “China says its work is legal and needed to safeguard its sovereignty”.