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Dangerous Decisions

Dangerous Decisions

After a roller-coaster week, Prime Minister Theresa May struck an 11th hour deal deal with the EU this morning that will advance Brexit talks to the next phase. What was all the drama about?


Earlier this year, British Prime Minister Theresa May, encouraged by favorable poll numbers, decided to call an election that she believed would increase her Conservative Party’s majority in parliament and boost her political standing ahead of Brexit negotiations with European leaders.

Then she ran a lousy campaign, and her party lost its majority. To form a new government, she was forced to partner with the Democratic Unionist Party(DUP), a small party based in Northern Ireland that few outside Britain know much about.

The central problem with that choice became evident this week. To advance the conversation toward the future of the trade relationship between the UK and EU, May must first finalize the Brexit “divorce agreement” by agreeing on three things: The status of EU citizens living in the UK, the size of the UK’s debt to the EU, and the status of the border that separates the Republic of Ireland (an EU member) from Northern Ireland (part of the UK).

To avoid restoration of a “hard border” between the two Irelands, a relic of the bad old days, May implicitly agreed this week to allow Northern Ireland to remain in the EU’s single market. On Monday, that decision was presented as the breakthrough that would move Brexit forward. On Tuesday, the DUP, with 10 members in Britain’s 650-member parliament, said no. Is it not true, asked DUP leaders, that if Northern Ireland remains in the EU single market, other parts of the UK can demand the same privilege? Heads began nodding in Scotland, Wales, and London. This morning, May found language that threads the needle and allows Brexit to move forward.

The details of today’s deal remain unclear, and there are still plenty of dissatisfied people on both the UK and EU sides. But a hurdle looks to have been cleared, and Brexit talks will advance.

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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"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

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

Biden's first scheduled call with a world leader will be with Canada's Justin Trudeau. What's going on with the Keystone Pipeline?

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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