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.

Each month, Microsoft receives about 6,500 complaints from people who've been victims of tech support scams. But it's not just Microsoft's brand that the scammers leverage; fraudsters have pretended to be from a number of other reputable tech companies and service providers. These scams will remain an industry-wide challenge until sufficient people are educated about how they work and how to avoid them.

To measure the scope of this problem globally, Microsoft commissioned YouGov for a new 2021 survey across 16 countries. Results from the 2021 survey reveal that, globally, fewer consumers have been exposed to tech support scams as compared to the 2018 survey. However, those people who continued with the interaction were more likely to have lost money to the scammers than we saw in our previous survey. To read the highlights of the survey, visit Microsoft on the Issues.

Next week, Ebrahim Raisi, a hardliner who is ideologically and personally close to Iran's 82 year-old supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, will be inaugurated as Iran's president. This power transition comes as the country experiences a fresh wave of protests that started in Iran's southwest over water shortages earlier this month and has since spilled over into dozens of provinces.

Some close observers of Iranian society and politics say that popular discontent there is now more widespread than it has been in years, making the Iranian regime more vulnerable than ever.

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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:

QR codes are everywhere. Are they also tracking my personal data?

Well, a QR code is like a complex barcode that may be on a printed ad or product package for you to scan and access more information. For example, to look at a menu without health risk or for two-factor verification of a bank payment. And now also as an integral part of covid and vaccine registration. QR codes can lead to tracking metadata or personal data. And when your phone scans and takes you to a website, certainly the tracking starts there. Now, one big trap is that people may not distinguish one kind of use of QR codes from another and that they cannot be aware of the risks of sharing their data.

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Was the world so focused on climate change that warning signs about the COVID-19 pandemic were missed? Historian and author Niall Ferguson argues that, while the climate crisis poses a long-term threat to humanity, other potential catastrophes are much more dangerous in the near future. "We took our eye off that ball," Ferguson says about COVID, "despite numerous warnings, because global climate change has become the issue that Greta Thunberg said, would bring the end of the world. But the point I'm making in DOOM [his new book] is that we can end the world and a lot of other ways, much faster." Ferguson spoke with Ian Bremmer in an interview for GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Predictable disaster and the surprising history of shocks

Tunisia, the only country that emerged a democracy from the Arab Spring, is now in the middle of its worst political crisis since it got rid of former autocrat Zine El Abidine Ben Ali over a decade ago.

On Sunday, the 64th anniversary of the country's independence from France, President Kais Saied responded to widespread protests over the ailing economy and COVID by firing embattled Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and suspending parliament for 30 days. Troops have surrounded the legislature, where rival crowds faced off on Monday, with one side chanting in support of the move and the other denouncing it as a coup.

How did we get here, do we even know who's really in charge, and what might come next?

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week:

As COVID-19 cases rise, are vaccine mandates coming?

Oh, you just want to get me in more trouble. Yeah, some mandates are coming, but they're not national mandates in the United States. In some cases, you're looking at federal and state employees, in some cases you're looking at lots of individual corporations, universities, and such. I mean I've already been to a number of events where vaccines have been mandated in New York. You've got this Excelsior Pass if you want to go to the Brooklyn Nets games, as I certainly do. You show it off and that gets you in with your vaccine. So I think it's really going to be a decentralized process. But clearly, given Delta variant and the number of people that are getting sick and dying because they're not vaccinated, you're going to see moves towards more mandates, as a consequence.

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Castillo takes over in Peru: After almost two months of protests, baseless allegations of fraud from his rival in the runoff election, and even rumblings of a coup, Pedro Castillo will be sworn in as president of Peru on Wednesday. A former rural school-teacher famous for riding on horseback, wearing a cowboy hat and waving a giant pencil to show how much he cares about education, Castillo has big plans to achieve big change. But he won by just a razor-thin margin in a deeply divided country, and Peru's dysfunctional political system will likely hobble his attempts to get major legislation passed. Moreover, despite having moderated his positions, half of the country still sees him as a communist who might turn Peru into another Venezuela. Castillo's most immediate task is dealing with the twin crises of a deadly pandemic and a COVID-fueled economic crisis that has hit poor Peruvians — his base — the hardest.

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13: The two Koreas have restored their communication hotline almost 13 months after Pyongyang abruptly cut it in response to Seoul not doing enough to prevent North Korean defectors from sending propaganda leaflets across the shared border. The hotline was established in 2018 following a historic meeting between North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

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