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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.

Knowing the secrets of the Earth requires a great deal of exploration and intellectual curiosity. Fit for this job is geologist Giuseppe Valenti, Eni's Senior Vice President, whose role is to explore below the Earth's surface and understand the history, movements and age of each single grain of sand. Today, he is able to go underground without leaving the office thanks to new technologies and advanced x-rays that relay real-time data. Though working in the lab is distinctly different from his past adventures traveling the world, Giuseppe is not nostalgic for the past. He says he will always be Indiana Jones in spirit.

Watch the latest Faces of Eni episode to learn more about Giuseppe's inspirational life.

The person a US president taps to assume the coveted role of secretary of state, the nation's top diplomat, says a lot about that president's foreign policy ambitions and global vision.

Indeed, the selection of Henry Kissinger (Nixon and Ford), James Baker (George H.W. Bush), Hillary Clinton (Obama) and Rex Tillerson (Trump) to head the State Department, provided an early window into the foreign policy priorities — or lack thereof — of their respective bosses.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hey, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, happy Monday, Thanksgiving week. Things starting to look increasingly normal in terms of outlook, in terms of having all of these vaccines. I understand that the next few months in the United States are going to be incredibly challenging, but so much easier when you see that there's light at the end of the tunnel and you know where that's coming. Most recently, the AstraZeneca announcement, which for me, in some ways is a bigger deal globally, even than what we've seen from Moderna and Pfizer, because it doesn't require freezing, it's just refrigeration, which means that countries around the world that don't have the infrastructure to deal with this cold chain requirements of these vaccines will be able to use another set of vaccines with different technology. That's not just AstraZeneca, it will be Johnson and Johnson. It's the Russians. It's the Chinese.

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Although the United States and the European Union have comparable population sizes, until recently the trajectories of their COVID-19 outbreaks have been vastly different, with the EU seeming to have kept the pandemic mostly in check during the summer months. The US has now surpassed twelve million total infections as most states, particularly in the Midwest, are fighting massive outbreaks. But now Europe is doing even worse: states across the continent are seeing an uptick in average infection and mortality rates that dwarf those of the US, leading several European countries to implement fresh national lockdowns. Here's a look at the seven-day rolling average of new COVID-19 cases, and three-day rolling averages of new deaths and new deaths per capita in the EU vs the US since March.

Guatemala in crisis: In the latest unrest to hit the streets of a Latin American capital, a group of demonstrators — angry about a controversial new budget — set fire to the Guatemalan parliament building over the weekend. The budget, negotiated largely in secret while the country reels from the impact of the pandemic and back-to-back hurricanes, cuts funding for healthcare, education, and human rights organizations while boosting money for infrastructure and — get this — adds more than $50,000 for lawmakers' meal stipends. The mostly peaceful protesters, along with the Catholic Church, are demanding at a minimum that President Alejandro Giammattei veto the budget, but some on the streets are calling for him and his whole government to step down entirely. Vice President Guillermo Castillo has offered to do just that, but only if the president jumps ship with him. Can Giammattei find a solution or is this a rerun of 2015, when mass protests unseated the government of then-President Otto Perez Molina? With its economy battered by the pandemic and natural disasters, Guatemala can ill afford a prolonged crisis.

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The 2020 US Election

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