BREXIT UPDATE: MARCH IS COMING FOR MAY

As things stand now, the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union in March of 2019. But despite months of rancorous negotiations, Brussels and London are still far apart on the terms of what that divorce might look like. Just days ago, the basis for a potential deal fell apart, leaving open the possibility that when the time comes, the UK might crash out of the Union without a new set of economic and financial agreements in place. That would be a potential economic disaster for both sides.


As the deadline approaches, EU leaders are set to convene in Luxembourg today to try again to hammer out at least a basic agreement over the future of economic relations between the continent and the UK.

Here’s a quick guide to what the issues are and what could happen next:

The major sticking point between the UK and EU right now is what happens to the border between Northern Ireland, which is a part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the EU. The situation is compounded by the fact that the border itself is part of deep-seated ethnic and religious fault lines. Thirty years ago, an agreement to bring an end to decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland was based on a delicate compromise: Northern Ireland would remain a part of the United Kingdom but with continued economic, cultural, and civil ties to the neighboring Republic of Ireland. In 1998, negotiators of that deal could never have anticipated the rapid expansion of the EU or the modern challenges of extricating the UK from it.

But the legacy of that moment now hovers over Brexit negotiations, where the UK faces a fundamental choice about this land border: either impose border controls in an effort to fully separate Northern Ireland from the EU or leave the border alone by effectively allowing it to remain under EU rules. The first option risks damaging Northern Ireland’s economy and angering those who still chafe under UK rule, while the second is seen as a red line for pro-Unionists there, including members of May’s governing coalition, and Tory hardliners who view it as prelude to continued close economic relations with the EU.

Until recently, it looked like May had achieved the careful choreography of appeasing both hardliners at home and negotiators in Brussels by proposing a technology-enabled “frictionless border” with a so-called “backstop” contingency plan to prevent a hard border in Ireland if no final Brexit deal is reached. But a cabinet rebellion from hardliners who fear this plan could become permanent – effectively maintaining integration with the EU and cutting off Northern Ireland from the UK – has scuttled the prospect for progress this week.

The bottom line: Over the next two days, May will meet with European leaders to try and find common ground on Northern Ireland that also addresses the concerns of those at home. But the clock is ticking—with only two real possibilities after this week's summit to strike a deal to finalize the UK’s withdrawal and begin discussions on future economic relations with the EU.

In 2012, the United States created the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to protect these young people from being deported. Yet just five years later, the program was rescinded, putting close to 700,000 DACA recipients at risk of being banished from the only home they've ever known. More than five dozen of these DACA recipients at risk are Microsoft employees. These young people contribute to the company and serve its customers. They help create products, secure services, and manage finances. And like so many young people across our nation, they dream of making an honest living and a real difference in the communities in which they reside. Yet they now live in uncertainty.

Microsoft has told its Dreamers that it will stand up for them along with all the nation's DACA recipients. It will represent them in court and litigate on their behalf. That's why Microsoft joined Princeton University and Princeton student Maria De La Cruz Perales Sanchez to file one of the three cases challenging the DACA rescission that was heard on Nov. 12 by the United States Supreme Court.

Read more on Microsoft On The Issues.

In the predawn hours of Tuesday morning, Israel launched a precision attack in the Gaza Strip, targeting and killing a Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander. In response, the terror group fired more than 200 rockets at southern Israel. Exchanges of fire have brought cities on both sides of the Gaza border to a standstill and at least eight Palestinians are dead and dozens of Israelis wounded. With this latest escalation, Israel now faces national security crises on multiple fronts. Here's what's going on:

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More Brexit shenanigans: Britons this week saw Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Boris Johnson endorse Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in upcoming elections. As a special bonus, they got to see Corbyn return the favo(u)r with a formal endorsement of Johnson. Most viewers in the UK will have understood immediately that these are the latest example of "deep fakes," digitally manipulated video images. The more important Brexit story this week is a pledge by Nigel Farage that his Brexit Party will not run candidates in areas held by the Conservatives in upcoming national elections. That's a boost for Johnson, because it frees his party from having to compete for support from pro-Brexit voters in those constituencies.

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80: More than 80 percent of the electronic voting systems currently used in the US are made by just three companies, according to a new report which warns that they are regulated less effectively than "colored pencils."

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Are we going to learn anything new from public impeachment hearings?

No, but like with Mueller, you know, people weren't reading the transcript, but they did actually listen to Mueller when he gave his speech. Now, the question is: Are they going to take anything different away from the public impeachment hearings? And the answer is, yes. They'll take very different things away, if they're watching on Fox or if they're watching on MSNBC. Still deeply divided and still can't imagine senators on the GOP impeaching, slash, convicting President Trump.

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