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Brexit: Enter The Hard Part

Brexit: Enter The Hard Part

Despite last week’s Brexit breakthrough, the road ahead is still littered with obstacles as the UK and EU sit down for the next round of talks this Friday.


Three big problems for British PM Theresa May:

The issues are only getting tougher: May wants to preserve maximal economic integration with the EU while doing away with social and political integration. But the EU more or less insists that the UK can’t have its cake and eat it too — out is out. The next round of negotiations will require genuine tradeoffs.

Her party isn’t fully behind her: May’s own Tory party is split. Last week’s compromise on the Irish border provoked an immediate backlash from pro-Brexit members who viewed it as a capitulation. These Tories won’t accept any final deal that looks too much like the UK is, in fact, still aligned politically with the continent.

The clock is ticking: The two sides have until March 2019 to agree on the future of their economic relationship or else they revert to a very weak level of economic integration mandated by WTO rules — a chaotic outcome which would hit the British economy hard. Are the roughly 500 days between now and then enough? Trade negotiations typically take years, if not decades, to complete.

Why does it matter? Despite last week’s breakthrough, Brexit will remain one of the big geopolitical cliffhangers of 2018.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

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Ian Bremmer discusses the World In (more than) 60 Seconds:

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Well, Biden said that that's it. Executive order, one of the first is that he will stop any construction or development of the Keystone Pipeline. This is of course an oil pipeline that would allow further oil sands oil to come to the United States. The infrastructure is significantly overstretched, it's led to backlogs, inefficiency, accidents, all the rest, but it also facilitates more energy development and keeps prices comparatively down if you get it done. So, there are lots of reasons why the energy sector in Canada wants it. Having said all of that, Trudeau, even though he's been a supporter of Keystone XL, let's keep in mind that he did not win support in Alberta, which is where the big energy patch in Canada is located. This is a real problem for the government of Alberta, Canada is a very decentralized federal government, even more so than the United States. The premier of Alberta is immensely unhappy with Biden right now, they've taken a $1.5 billion equity stake in the project. I expect there will actually be litigation against the United States by the government of Alberta. But Trudeau is quite happy with Biden, his relationship was Trump was always walking on eggshells. The USMCA in negotiations ultimately successful but were very challenging for the Canadians, so too with the way Trump engaged in relations on China. All of this, the fact that Trump left the nuclear agreement with Iran, the Paris Climate Accords, WHO, all of that is stuff that Trudeau strongly opposed. He's going to be much more comfortable with this relationship. He's delighted that the first call from Biden is to him. And it certainly creates a level of normalcy in the US-Canada relationship that is very much appreciated by our neighbors to the North.

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The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

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