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This Week In European Climb-downs

This Week In European Climb-downs

As political humiliations go, it's tough to find a deeper dish of humble pie (presumably shepherd's) than what UK Prime Minister Theresa May tucked into yesterday. Rather than risk a resounding defeat in Parliament for the controversial Brexit agreement that her government has negotiated with the European Union, she called off the vote altogether.


She didn't have much choice. The agreement on the terms of UK's exit from the EU was headed for a disastrous defeat. Remainers obviously saw nothing to love in it, but more importantly, hardline pro-Brexit members within her own coalition thought the proposal too "soft": it would have allowed the UK to remain in the EU Customs Union indefinitely while negotiators figured out how to extricate the UK from the EU without cutting off Ireland (an EU country) from Northern Ireland (part of the UK).

With the vote postponed, it's not clear what comes next. Ms. May pledged yesterday to secure reassurances from Brussels. But EU negotiators say after more than a year of tortuous negotiations, the books are closed for good. To sharpen the point, EU leaders announced fresh preparations for the economic blow of a "no-deal" Brexit, in which the UK crashes out of the EU in March without any new commercial agreements in place.

Politically, this result leaves Ms. May hanging by a thread that, for all the country's anguish over Brexit, no one is yet willing to cut. Critics within her own Tory party don't' have the votes to oust her, but neither do does the opposition Labour party. She could call new elections in a bid to bolster support in Parliament for her more moderate vision of Brexit, but her call for early elections last year didn't go so well, and she looks weaker now than she did then.

What about a second referendum? Prospects of a do-over were given a fresh lift on Monday when the EU's highest court ruled London is free to unilaterally cancel Brexit without the consent of the other 27 EU members. Still, another referendum is a very remote prospect – contentious and bungled as Brexit has been, lawmakers are loath to revisit a decision made by a majority of voters that could very well produce the same result.

For now, the clock continues to tick – with or without an agreement, the UK has just 108 days until its planned departure from the EU.

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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