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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.

Carbon has a bad rep, but did you know it's a building block of life? As atoms evolved, carbon trapped in CO2 was freed, giving way to the creation of complex molecules that use photosynthesis to convert carbon to food. Soon after, plants, herbivores, and carnivores began populating the earth and the cycle of life began.

Learn more about how carbon created life on Earth in the second episode of Eni's Story of CO2 series.

As we enter the homestretch of the US presidential election — which is set to be the most contentious, and possibly contested, in generations — Americans are also voting on 35 seats up for grabs in a battle for the control of the Senate. The 100-member body is currently held 53-47 by the Republican Party, but many individual races are wide open, and the Democrats are confident they can flip the upper chamber of Congress.

Either way, the result will have a profound impact not only on domestic policy, but also on US foreign relations and other issues with global reach. Here are a few areas where what US senators decide reverberates well beyond American shores.

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On September 23, GZERO Media — in partnership with Microsoft and Eurasia Group — gathered global experts to discuss global recovery from the coronavirus pandemic in a livestream panel. Our panel for the discussion Crisis Response & Recovery: Reimagining while Rebuilding, included:

  • Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
  • Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
  • Jeh Johnson, Partner, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and former Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • John Frank, Vice President, UN Affairs at Microsoft
  • Susan Glasser, staff writer and Washington columnist, The New Yorker (moderator)

Special appearances by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, European Central Bank chief Christine Lagarde, and comedian/host Trevor Noah.

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Jon Lieber, who leads Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, offers insights on the Supreme Court vacancy:

Will Senate Republicans, who stopped a Supreme Court nomination in 2016, because it was too close to an election, pay a political price for the change in tactics this time around?

Not only do I think they won't pay a political price, I think in many cases, they're going to benefit. Changing the balance of power on the Supreme Court has been a career-long quest for many conservatives and many Republicans. And that's why you've seen so many of them fall in line behind the President's nomination before we even know who it is.

At this point, do Senate Democrats have any hope of stopping President Trump from filling the ninth seat on the Supreme Court?

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In a special GZERO Media livestream on global response and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media president Ian Bremmer discussed the difference between Europe's unified approach to economic stimulus and the deeply divided and political nature of the current conversation in the US. While initial stimulus support was bipartisan, there is little chance of Democrats and Republicans coming together again ahead of the November 3 presidential election. "It's red state versus blue state. President Trump's saying that coronavirus isn't so bad if you take the blue states out. He's president of the blue states, you can't take the blue states out," Bremmer told moderator Susan Glasser of The New Yorker.

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Panel: How will the world recover from COVID-19?

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