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What We're Watching: Brexit clashes, China stalking Taiwan, strongman's son for Philippine president

British PM Boris Johnson

Bet you thought Brexit was over… it's not: The EU and UK remain at loggerheads over the future of the Northern Irish border. Brussels says that it won't renegotiate a part of the post-Brexit EU-UK trade deal that includes a symbolic border between the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, and Northern Ireland, part of the UK, threatening to increase tensions along this decades-long flashpoint. Though British PM Boris Johnson agreed in December to a nominal border that would essentially run through the Irish Sea, he has been dragging his feet ever since, and has even threatened in recent weeks to use a loophole to renege on the Northern Ireland clause altogether, which would only further infuriate the Europeans. Indeed, Johnson is facing extreme pressure from all sides: Northern Irish unionists are furious that the British PM ever agreed to a border in the first place, saying it undermines its place within the UK trade system, while Brussels is refusing to budge, saying that renegotiating Brexit would destabilize the whole continent amid ongoing supply chain disruptions. London's ultimatum expires in 10 days.

China stalks Taiwan: To mark China's week-long National Day holiday, Beijing celebrated in style, opting to fly a flurry of military jets over Taiwan. China sent more than 150 aircrafts over four days into the self-governing island's air defense identification zone, its biggest incursion to date. Taipei says that mainland China has been increasingly infringing on its airspace as a show of force. Beijing, for its part, has remained mum, but analysts say that since its successful takeover of the once-autonomous city of Hong Kong, Beijing has become more emboldened to use force to take control of Taiwan, which it sees as part of the People's Republic. Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen said that while she doesn't seek confrontation with China, Taiwan would "do whatever it takes to defend itself" — in other words, it needs Uncle Sam to boost arms sales ASAP. Meanwhile, as an act of support to Taiwan, likely at the behest of the US, the UK sent a warship through the Taiwan Strait on Monday for the first time in over a decade, which the Chinese were surely not happy about.

Dictator's son to run for Philippine president: Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late Philippine strongman, says he'll run for the presidency in the May 2022 election. Marcos, who narrowly lost the vice presidency in 2016, is a deeply divisive figure in the country due to the controversial legacy of his dad, who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1965 to 1986 — including eight years under martial law — and plundered billions of dollars. Still, the younger Marcos is now polling second for president in a crowded field that includes as frontrunners the famous boxer-turned-senator Manny Pacquiao and Isko Moreno, a popular TV host-turned Manila mayor. Sara Duterte, daughter of current President Rodrigo Duterte, and VP Leni Robredo are also expected to throw their hat in the ring in a presidential race that was upended over the weekend when Duterte senior suddenly dropped his plans to run for vice president and announced his retirement. But given the history of Philippine political drama, there could still be more startling developments to come.


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