BREXIT UPDATE: MARCH IS COMING FOR MAY

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.

Building on more than 15 years of sustainability leadership, Walmart is doubling down on addressing the growing climate crisis by targeting zero emissions across the company's global operations by 2040. Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are also committing to help protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and one million square miles of ocean by 2030 to help combat the cascading loss of nature threatening the planet.

One of the world's most famous political dissidents may die in a Russian prison this week.

Alexei Navalny has been on a hunger strike since March 31 over the authorities' refusal to let his own medical team examine him after he developed signs of tuberculosis. Now, one of his aides says Navalny is "close to death."

The fate of Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic — who was poisoned last summer, allegedly by state officials, treated in Germany, and then jailed upon his return to Russia — is being closely watched both inside and outside the country.

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How bad is the climate crisis? Every year, the UN's Emissions Gap Report shows a large gap between the trajectory we're on and the trajectory we ought to be on, explains climate journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. "Every decade now is warmer than the decade before. And we're seeing the damage pile up," says Kolbert, whose latest book is Under A White Sky: The Nature of the Future. "We saw the tremendous wildfire season in California last fall. The hurricane season in the Gulf. These are all connected to climate change, and we're just going to keep seeing more of that." She spoke with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, airing on US public television stations starting April 16. Check local listings.

Watch the episode: Can we fix the planet the same way we broke it?

Ian Bremmer and Bill Maher discussed the global leadership of the United States compared to that of China on a recent episode of Real Time. "The level of corruption in China, the level of corruption in China, even the buildings and the rails you talk about - the average building the Chinese build lasts for 20, 25 years. In the United States, it lasts for 40 to 50. There's a reason why we are still the world's most powerful country," Ian argued. "I'm just saying China's not eating our lunch - that's all."

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As the price of Bitcoin has skyrocketed in recent months, so has the amount of energy that procuring it hogs. Research shows that Bitcoin "mining" now uses 80 percent more energy than at the start of 2020. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates recently sounded the alarm on crypto, saying that he would not invest in Bitcoin because mining for the digital currency requires huge amounts of energy, much of which is powered by fossil fuels that harm the environment. So where does Bitcoin rank in electricity consumption compared to nations?

Even if the US, Europe, China, and India reduce carbon emissions at the rate they've promised, much climate damage has already been done. That shouldn't stop these and other countries from doing all they can to meet their net-zero emissions targets, but they also better start preparing for a world of people on the move.

Climate change will displace an unprecedented number of people in coming years, creating not just a series of humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, but lasting political, economic, and social upheaval as those of us who live on higher ground try to find a sustainable place for these climate refugees to live.

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody, Ian Bremmer here, kicking off your beautiful spring week from New York City. A little Quick Take. I thought I'd talk today about Russia, going to be in the news this week. Putin doesn't like it when they're out of the news for too long, certainly plenty going on between the US and Russia right now.

I'd say, first of all, to start off, the relationship is in the toilet. We know this. It is the worst it's been since the early '80s. That was true even under Trump. Trump and Putin personally had a pretty good relationship, but Trump wasn't able to get anything really done for the Russians, because both the Republicans in Congress, key members of cabinet under Trump, massive amount of constraints on what Trump could actually do, whether it's trying to bring Russia back into the G7 or recognize Crimea as a part of Russia, or remove or reduce sanctions. None of that actually got done. In fact, the relationship deteriorated over the four years.

But now we've got Biden and the focus is of course, more on human rights. The focus is more on climate change, which means that Russia as a massive energy exporter and particularly in terms of their influence on Eastern Europe and Western Europe on the downstream for gas delivery, for example, something that Biden is much more focused on. So a lot more pressure on the Russians, and the Russians don't care. Their willingness to hit back and show that the Americans are not willing to take any significant risks to constrain the Russians is also fairly significant. And this is playing out in a number of ways.

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Pakistani radicals vs French cartoons: It's been a tumultuous week in Lahore, Pakistan's second largest city. After widespread protests broke out across the Muslim world late last year after Paris defended French publications' rights to publish satirical images of the Prophet Mohammad, the radical Pakistani Islamist group Tehrik-i-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), gave Pakistan's government until April 20 to expel the French ambassador, when it had planned nationwide demonstrations. When Prime Minister Imran Khan refused to meet their demands, more violence erupted across the country and authorities arrested the TLP leader — prompting TLP supporters to hit back by kidnapping six state security personnel in Lahore this past weekend. Authorities have now banned the TLP outright and are bracing for more violence in the coming days. France, meanwhile, has urged all of its citizens to leave Pakistan.

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