Brexit and Biden

Joe Biden and Boris Johnson featured on either side of a fractured United Kingdom

On January 1, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union, and the process of Brexit will (finally!) be complete. But with just seven weeks to go, the future of their relationship after the formal break remains very much in doubt, particularly when it comes to trade.

UK and EU negotiators have been working for months toward a free trade agreement, but big disagreements remain. The stakes are high, particularly for Britain. Today, nearly half of British trade is with the European Union, and without a deal, the EU can impose tariffs, quotas, and other barriers on British imports that would drive up costs for British companies and consumers.


Time is running out. If there's going to be a deal, it will probably have to come within the next week, because whatever they agree will need approval by British lawmakers and the EU parliament before January 1.

Major sticking points range from "level playing field" rules—Europe's demand that Britain not adopt labor, environmental, taxation and other rules and standards that undermine the competitiveness of EU companies—to how many fish European fishermen are allowed to catch in British waters.

So far, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has played hardball with EU negotiators. His message: We can live very well thank you without an EU deal. He's even threatened to break international law by scrapping an earlier EU-UK agreement that would maintain the current soft border between the Republic of Ireland (an EU member) and Northern Ireland (part of the UK).

But the US election outcome has suddenly made things harder for Johnson. His hardline approach was more credible when it appeared Donald Trump might win re-election, because Trump had pledged to forge a US-UK trade agreement. Linking the UK more closely to the world's largest single economy gave Johnson leverage with Brussels. But President-elect Joe Biden has made clear that he opposes any move to harden the Irish border and will not cut a trade deal unless Johnson backs down on that position.

Biden's victory, therefore, has weakened Johnson's bargaining position with the EU—and negotiators on both sides of the English Channel know it. The EU side of the table has presented a united front. As European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde told GZERO Media in September, "All members of the European Union have stayed together throughout these last three years. And I don't see any trace of them coming apart."

Johnson also faces intense pressure from members of his own party not to concede too much to the EU, many of them already frustrated with Johnson over his handling of COVID-19 and lockdowns.

The danger for Johnson of alienating Biden, who is intent on improving US relations with Europe, is real and could help drag a UK-EU deal across the finish line. Post-Brexit, a UK wracked by pandemic and its economic fallout can't afford sour relations with the US and EU at the same time.

What will Johnson do? Between the EU's demands, Biden's, and those of hardliners within his own party, Johnson will now have to compromise somewhere – and time is running out.

Over the next decade, Walmart's $350 billion investment in U.S. manufacturing has the potential to:

  • Support more than 750,000 new American jobs.
  • Avoid more than 100M metric tons of CO2 emissions by working with suppliers to shift to U.S. manufacturing.
  • Advance the growth of U.S.-based suppliers.
  • Provide opportunities for more than 9,000 entrepreneurs to become Walmart suppliers and sellers through Walmart's annual Open Call.

A year and a half after millions poured into the streets of Santiago to protest inequality and the vestiges of the Pinochet dictatorship, Chileans voted this weekend to elect the 155 people who will rewrite the country's constitution.

The question now is not whether the people want change — clearly they do — but rather how much change their representatives can agree on. Overall, the new text is widely expected to beef up the role of the state in a country where a strong private sector made Chile one of Latin America's wealthiest yet also most unequal nations.

Here are a few things to bear in mind as the constitutional rewrite process kicks off.

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In January 2020, Thailand became the first nation outside of China to record a case of COVID-19. But along with neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, Thailand managed to keep the coronavirus mostly at bay last year by swiftly enforcing lockdowns and other public health measures. However, having barely rolled out COVID vaccines, in 2021 many Southeast Asian nations are now grappling with massive new outbreaks of disease. Cambodia's caseload is surging, leading Prime Minister Hun Sen to say that his country was on "the brink of death." Meanwhile, Malaysian officials struggled to enforce domestic travel restrictions during Ramadan, causing cases to skyrocket in recent weeks. We take a look at COVID-19 caseloads in Southeast Asian countries with the highest daily caseloads this year.

Morocco punishes Spain with... migrants: Spain has sent in the army to help defend the border in Ceuta, a tiny Spanish enclave on the Moroccan coast, after more than 8,000 migrants crossed over in just two days. Spanish border guards say that Morocco facilitated the migrants' departure, most of whom are Moroccan nationals, to punish Madrid for meddling in Morocco's internal affairs over Western Sahara. Last month, Madrid allowed the leader of the pro-independence Polisario Front to seek treatment for COVID in a Spanish hospital, infuriating Rabat, which claims the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara as part of its territory. The Moroccans, for their part, deny involvement in the mass exodus. However, that seems questionable given that Morocco has traditionally overreacted to any hint of Spanish support for Western Saharan independence. But Spain won't want to rock the boat too much because it needs Morocco's help to stop African migrants from flooding Ceuta and Melilla, the other Spanish enclave in Morocco. If the spat is not resolved soon, the European Union may have to step in to mediate because once the migrants are on EU soil, they are free to travel to other EU countries.

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20 million: The US will donate 20 million doses of federally authorized COVID vaccines to countries in need. This is the first time the Biden administration has agreed to send shots approved for use in America. Washington previously pledged to send by the end of June 60 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which the US has stockpiled but lacks FDA approval.

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Cyber is a tool, and sometimes a weapon. Whether espionage for commercial gain or indiscriminate attacks on critical infrastructure, actions taken in cyber space affect you directly, potentially upending even the most mundane realities of everyday life.

Watch GZERO Media and Microsoft's live conversation on cyber challenges facing governments, companies, and citizens in a Munich Security Conference "Road to Munich" event recorded today, May 18.

Event link: gzeromedia.com/globalstage

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A big reason the Chinese leader is pushing harder than ever to annex Taiwan is actually quite small. The self-governing island has an outsize manufacturing capacity for semiconductors – the little chips that bind the electrical circuits we use in our daily lives. Cell phones, laptops, modern cars, and even airplanes all rely on these tiny computer wafers. Taiwanese chip manufacturer TSMC alone makes more than half of the chips outsourced by all foreign companies, which means your iPhone likely runs on Taiwanese-made semiconductors. What would happen to the world's semiconductor chips if China were to take control of Taiwan?

Watch the episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: What could spark a US-China war?

Will there be a ceasefire in Gaza? Fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas/Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants in the Gaza Strip has now entered its second week. Over the weekend, Israel intensified its bombing of the Gaza Strip, which included targeting a building that houses Al-Jazeera and AP, two foreign media outlets, causing their reporters to hastily flee the premises (Israel has so far not substantiated its claim that Hamas intelligence operatives were working in the building.) At least 42 Gazans were killed in a single Israeli strike Sunday, bringing the Palestinian death toll above 200. Meanwhile, Hamas continued to fire rockets at southern and central Israel, resulting in several casualties. On Monday, for the first time since the violent outbreak, US President Joe Biden voiced support for a ceasefire driven by the Egyptians and others. However, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, has said that the operation will "take time," and a truce is off the table until Hamas' military capabilities are significantly degraded. Civilians on both sides continue to suffer.

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Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace. Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT/ 1pm ET

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Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace | Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT / 1 pm PT

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