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Brexit From All Angles

Brexit From All Angles

Brinkmanship – "the technique or practice of maneuvering a dangerous situation to the limits of tolerance or safety in order to secure the greatest advantage, especially by creating diplomatic crises."

For a colorful example, look at what Boris Johnson did this week. On Wednesday, the UK prime minister announced a five-week suspension of parliament in September and October.

Critics say Johnson's move undermines democracy by stripping lawmakers of precious time for debate and action on Brexit before October 31, when the UK is set to leave the EU. Johnson's defenders insist that there's still time for parliament to meet its responsibilities, that this action is perfectly normal, and that the real threat to democracy comes from those who would frustrate the British people's will by blocking Brexit.

To understand what's happening and where this is going, consider what each of the major players in this drama wants…


Boris Johnson – The prime minister wants to scare the Europeans into believing that he's serious about leaving the EU with "no deal," inflicting serious economic harm on both the UK and the continent. Why the threat? Because he wants Brussels to make concessions on the terms of Brexit that they didn't give to his predecessor, Theresa May. In particular, he wants them to drop the controversial Irish backstop, a provision that could keep the UK tied to the EU customs union indefinitely.

But to make that "no deal" threat credible, Johnson must do all he can to prevent UK lawmakers from taking actions that limit his options.

Jeremy Corbyn – The leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party wants new elections so that he can negotiate his own Brexit deal as Britain's new prime minister. Corbyn opposed the UK's entry into the EU decades ago, and his unwillingness to state a clear position on Brexit since the referendum in 2016 has frustrated Britons on all sides of this issue.

Other opposition leaders – Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, wants to halt Brexit. That means bringing down Boris Johnson's government, but without helping Corbyn become prime minister, even during an emergency period before elections can be held. That's because, given the damage that Brexit has done to both Conservatives and Labour, new elections might play in the LibDems' favor.

Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, would like to one day become the first prime minister of an independent Scotland. It appears 2020 might be too soon for another referendum, but antipathy in Scotland for Boris Johnson is helping her case, and his decision to suspend parliament further fuels that fire.

European leaders – EU leaders have differing opinions on Brexit, but most want to make the process as painful as possible for Britain in order to discourage any other EU countries from trying to leave the union in the future. They also don't want to reopen internal negotiations among 27 EU governments over the deal offered to the UK.

What's next? Boris Johnson has taken extreme measures to further his strategy, and his critics in parliament will likely do the same. We could see a strong push for a vote of no-confidence in his government as soon as next week.

If so, Johnson may well call for general elections to be scheduled for the weeks after the October 31 Brexit deadline. The Europeans, watching the resulting fury, will refuse to give Johnson any of the substantive concessions he wants.

In the meantime, the stakes and the anger on all sides will continue to rise.

Meet Ian Martin, an English Professor from Glasgow who is now head of Communications for Eni's International Resources. Approaching his work in the same way he used to hold his lectures, Ian is dedicated to listening and making people around him comfortable. Having working in both Milan and London, Ian utilizes his ability to communicate in different languages and cultures to prepare Eni's global messaging strategy. "Communication is a transfer of humanity," he says, and his job is as much centered around people as it as around language.

Watch Ian's human approach to communications on the most recent episode of Faces of Eni.

How to capture the essence of this incredible, terrible year in a few short words and without using profanity? It's not easy.

Thankfully, the dictionary website Merriam-Webster.com has released its list of most heavily searched words of 2020, and they tell the story of an historic year in US politics and the life of our planet. Here's a sample.

The top word, unsurprisingly, was "Pandemic," a disease outbreak that covers a wide area and afflicts lots of people. In 2020, the coronavirus crisis hit every region of the world, triggering a public health, economic, and political emergency on a geographic scale our planet has never experienced. Differing responses to that problem defined the politics (and geopolitics) of 2020.

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While recent news from Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca on the efficacy of their respective COVID vaccines is encouraging, it has also given rise to bidding wars between wealthy countries trying to secure the largest supply of the new drugs for their citizens. Meanwhile, many governments in emerging market economies, where healthcare infrastructure is generally weaker, are worried they'll be kicked to the back of the line in the global distribution process. Indeed, history bears out their concerns: while a lifesaving HIV treatment hit shelves in the West in the mid-1990s, for example, it took years to become widely in Africa, which saw some of the worst HIV outbreaks in the world. But here's the catch: even if wealthy countries manage to obtain large supplies of vaccines to immunize their populations, the interconnected nature of the global economy means that no one will really be out of the woods until we all are. Here's a snapshot of how many COVID vaccines select countries have already purchased.

Afghanistan's small breakthrough: For months, disagreements over a range of political issues have hamstrung the intra-Afghan peace talks brokered by the Trump administration that aim to bridge the years-long conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban. But this week, a significant breakthrough was made on the principles and procedures governing the talks, that, experts say, will help push negotiations to the next phase. One key advance is agreement on the official name of the Afghan government, an issue that stalled talks earlier this year. Still, progress is fragile. Taliban violence and efforts to seize territory have only increased since the militants and the US reached a deal in February on a blueprint for an American troop withdrawal. And the Trump administration says it aims to pull out all but 2,500 US troops by mid-January, whether the Taliban have kept their end of the deal or not. What's more, while this week's development puts the parties one step closer to an eventual power-sharing agreement, it's unclear whether the incoming Biden administration will even honor the Trump administration's deal with the Taliban.

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Two weeks ago, Russia secured a deal to build a naval base in Sudan, its first new military facility in Africa since the end of the Cold War. The accord is a major milestone in Moscow's wider push to regain influence, and income, on a continent where the Kremlin was once a major player.

But with the ideological and military contests of the Cold War long over, what is Moscow doing in Africa today?

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Reasons for Hope: COVID and the Coming Year. Watch on Friday. Dec 4 2020 12 noon - 1 pm ET

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