Boris Johnson, Miles Davis, and Brexit

Puzzle with printed EU and UK flags

"Time isn't the main thing. It's the only thing." The words of jazz genius Miles Davis are surely resonating with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who flew to Brussels on Wednesday to iron out a post-Brexit trade agreement before the UK formally leaves the European Union — with or without a deal — on January 1.

While it was the first face-to-face meeting between Johnson and European Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen, since January, it's been four years since UK citizens voted in a referendum to leave the EU. Why has this been so hard to pull off?

As we enter the Brexit homestretch, here's a look at some key sticking points.


What are the outstanding issues?

🐟 Fish . London and Brussels simply can't agree on rules governing fishing rights, which has long been an emotive political issue for many Britons who say that they got a subpar deal when London joined the European Economic Community in the 1970s. They complain that non-British boats now draw in more than 60 percent of the value of fish drawn from English waters.

The UK says that its fishing waters should be "first and foremost for British boats," but the EU wants to retain rules that allow its vessels to have full access, threatening that it will block London's "special access" to its single market. As EU boats catch fish worth around £600 million in UK waters every year, Brussels is under huge pressure from fishing communities in dozens of member states not to back down.

Level playing field. EU-wide rules and regulations — the "level playing field" — seek to ensure that no country gains a competitive edge over another. But in exchange for privileged access to the EU marketplace, Europe is now demanding that Britain not adopt new labor, environmental, taxation and other rules that might undermine the competitiveness of European companies. Brexiteers, on the other hand, are furious, arguing that adhering to EU policy and regulations negates the entire Brexit mission altogether.

There was, however, a breakthrough in recent days when the UK backed down on its plan to breach the withdrawal treaty over how it would oversee trade with Northern Ireland.

What's at stake?

For the UK, the stakes are very high. If no deal is reached by January 1, British businesses that have long benefitted from access to the bloc's customs union will find themselves facing massive bureaucratic hurdles and high costs on goods crossing borders.

This is a big deal considering the UK does more than half of all its trade within the EU, which imports 43 percent of all British goods. If no deal is reached in the next few weeks, analysts warn, Britons could soon see some staples pulled from supermarket shelves, stranded transport vehicles with nowhere to deliver goods, and a floundering manufacturing sector.

For the EU, the stakes are high. Decades of free trade with the UK that have been a boon for EU businesses could come to an abrupt end in a no-deal scenario. It could make the GDP of the EU, which has long enjoyed a healthy trade surplus with the UK, contract by 0.5 percent in the near term if European companies have to pay tariffs and meet quotas.

Importantly, the Europeans are also worried that London will cut social and environmental standards, and become a low-regulation economic competitor like China, which continues to flood the bloc's market.

Johnson's gambit. The British PM has long been playing hardball with Brussels, but times are a'changin: popular discontent over Johnson's botched pandemic response has left him with diminished political capital to make painful concessions. (Johnson currently has a net approval rating of -18 percent.)

Johnson wants to have his cake (scone) and eat it too. He is pushing for a post-Brexit agreement that allows London to retain access to the EU single market, while also setting its own rules and regulations. The EU, meanwhile, desperately wants the UK to compromise. Who will blink first?

Eni is helping to bring stable energy sources to the communities of Ghana. This means vaccines for children can now be safely stored, businesses can operate more efficiently, and the economy, as a whole, is strengthened and improved.

Watch to learn how Eni helps businesses grow and build for the future.

This week, the US Senate passed the so-called Endless Frontier Act, a $250 billion investment in development of artificial intelligence, quantum computing, the manufacture of semiconductors, and other tech-related sectors. The goal is to harness the combined power of America's public and private sectors to meet the tech challenges posed by China.

In its current form, this is the biggest diversion of public funds into the private sector to achieve strategic goals in many decades. The details of this package, and of the Senate vote, say a lot about US foreign-policy priorities and this bill's chances of becoming law.

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What do America's policies around the world mean for jobs, the economy, and the future of the country's future? This Tuesday, June 15. at 11 am ET, GZERO Media presents a a live discussion on trade, immigration, and how domestic issues like racism and deep partisan divides impact America's standing in the world. Our event, which is sponsored by Carnegie Corporation of New York, is free and open to the public. Please register to attend.

Judy Woodruff, anchor of the PBS NewsHour, will moderate the conversation with:

  • Donna Edwards, Member of Congress (2008-2017)
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group and GZERO Media
  • Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO, New America
  • Miriam Sapiro, Managing Director, Sard Verbinnen & Co. (SVC) and Former Acting and Deputy U.S. Trade Representative
  • Cecilia Muñoz, Senior Advisor, New America

Special appearance by Governor Thomas H. Kean, Chairman of Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Far Away and Close to Home: How US Foreign Policy Impacts All Americans

Tuesday, June 15, 2021 | 11 am - 12:30 pm ET

Register to attend

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Listen: Is there a path to democracy for Europe's last dictatorship, Belarus? Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya discusses her hopes and fears for the country with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World Podcast. President Alexander Lukashenko has maintained a tight grip on power in Belarus for the last 26 years and rigged the results of his last election which led to widespread protest and unrest in his country, though few consequences globally. But will he now be held accountable after diverting a flight between two European capitals to arrest a dissident journalist? And just how close are he and Vladimir Putin?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Nigeria's federal government earlier this month blocked Twitter from the country's mobile networks, after the social media company deleted a controversial post from President Muhammadu Buhari's account. The move by Africa's largest and most populous economy comes as many governments around the world are putting increased pressure on social media companies, with serious implications for free speech.

So what actually happened in Nigeria, and how does it fit in with broader trends on censorship and social media regulation? Eurasia Group analysts Amaka Anku and Tochi Eni-Kalu explain.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

What's the significance of the US-China bill, competition bill that passed the Senate earlier this week?

Well, the bill is a major investment in American technology, research and development, semiconductor manufacturing, and it's designed to push back on the China Made in 2025 push that lawmakers have become increasingly worried about in recent years. The opinion in Washington has shifted from seeing China as a strategic competitor to a strategic rival. And you're seeing what's now likely to be one of the only bipartisan bills in Congress now pushing back on that. Significant money for semiconductors in this bill, even though some of it was set aside for automotive purposes. That money's not going to come online fast enough to really make a difference to the current global semiconductor shortage, but it will help build up US long-term spending capacity and manufacturing capacity in semiconductors.

Other aspects of the bill, banned the application TikTok from going on government devices out of security concerns, created new sanctions authorities around Xinjiang and Hong Kong for human rights abuses, and mandated a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics, which is probably going to happen anyway once the Biden administration is able to align with its allies. Let the athletes play. Don't let any high level delegations go. This is probably the only bipartisan bill to happen this year, yet still, half of Senate Republicans voted against it because they were opposed to the kind of industrial policy they think this represents, but it does show the area where there's bipartisan agreement in a city that's very, very divided right now. China is the bad guy and Congress is moving in that direction.

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Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective from Europe:

What do you expect from President Biden's first European trip since taking office?

Well, first, it will be sort of reconnecting with Europe, reconnecting with the European Union, with NATO, with the partners in the G7, and going really from the initial message, which was, "we are back," to a more concrete message, "here is what we could potentially do together." That is the expectations. And let's see how it turns out.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

When President Biden and President Putin meet, will cybersecurity will be a key issue that they discuss?

Now, I'm sure that there will be many thorny issues on the table. But after American fingers pointed to Russia and hold it responsible for the SolarWinds hack, it's likely. Criminals in Russia were also not hindered when they held the Colonial Pipeline Company ransom through a ransomware attack. And really, when journalists and opposition leaders cannot speak a single critical word without being caught, how come cybercriminals can act with impunity in Russia? So the need for prevention and accountability really is significant. And I hope the President Biden can push and persuade Putin to change the confrontational and aggressive course that he is on.

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Watch "Far Away and Close to Home: How US Foreign Policy Impacts All Americans" live on Tuesday, June 15 |  11 AM – 12:30 pm ET

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Watch "Far Away and Close to Home: How US Foreign Policy Impacts All Americans" live on Tuesday, June 15 |  11 AM – 12:30 pm ET

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal