What We're Watching: UK's Brexit breach, Lula mulls comeback in Brazil, Trump's Nobel nomination

What We're Watching: UK's Brexit breach, Lula mulls comeback in Brazil, Trump's Nobel nomination

UK's Brexit tweak could breach international law: Boris Johnson's government came under fire this week after signaling that it would rewrite parts of the deal negotiated with Brussels last year that set terms for the UK's exit from the European Union. That agreement allowed Northern Ireland, still part of the UK, the same trade rules and customs as the rest of the EU — a key condition of the Good Friday Agreement signed in 1998 between the UK and Republic of Ireland that ended decades of violence. The British government now says it plans to pass legislation that could upend the provision that guarantees an open Irish border. Many observers say this would breach international law, putting the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy. In the United States, meanwhile, Democrats have warned that a future Biden administration would reject any move to create a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and that Johnson's latest move would undermine chances of negotiating any future US-UK free trade agreement. More immediately, this maneuver also undermines the trust on which ongoing UK-EU relations will depend.


Is Lula making a comeback in Brazil? Former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva blasted the incumbent, Jair Bolsonaro, over the latter's botched handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Lula said that Bolsonaro has turned the pandemic into a "weapon of mass destruction," referring to the country's high COVID-19 caseload and death toll, second only to the United States. While criticisms of his pandemic response are nothing new for Bolsonaro — who consistently downplayed the severity of COVID-19, often flouting rules on mask-wearing and social distancing until he became sick himself — it is the first time that Lula has hit Bolsonaro in such a public way, causing pundits to ask whether Brazil's leftist former leader might be preparing for a 2022 runoff against the right-wing incumbent. In 2018, Lula was sentenced to eight years in prison for corruption, but a year later his conviction was overturned, although he still can't run for public office. However, questions over the impartiality of the judge (Bolsonaro's own former justice minister) could result in Lula's political rights being restored by the Supreme Court. That raises the stakes for Bolsonaro in the general election in two years, where Lula — who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010 and is still very popular, especially among the working poor — would be a formidable rival.

What We're Ignoring:

Trump tapped for Nobel Peace Prize: US President Donald Trump was nominated on Wednesday for the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a recent peace deal between former foes — the United Arab Emirates and Israel. Christian Tybring-Gjedde, a far-right Norwegian politician with anti-immigrant views on par with Trump's, tapped the US president for the 2021 prize. While Trump's Nobel nod sounds auspicious, we're ignoring this development for two key reasons: Firstly, the bar for being nominated is extremely low (nominations are accepted from any politician serving at the national level). Additionally, Tybring-Gjedde, clearly a Trump fanboy, was one of two politicians who nominated the US president for the same prize in 2018 for his role in fostering "reconciliation" between North and South Korea. But relations on the Korean Peninsula are far from reconciled these days...

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Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here from sunny Nantucket and going to be here for a little bit. Thought we would talk about the latest on COVID. Certainly, we had hoped we'd be talking less about it at this point, at least in terms of the developed world. A combination of the transmissibility of Delta variant and the extraordinary misinformation around vaccines and COVID treatment means that we are not in the position that many certainly had hoped we would be today.

The United States is the biggest problem on this front. We are awash in vaccines. Operation Warp Speed was an enormous success. The best vaccines in the world, the most effective mRNA, the United States doing everything it can to get secure doses for the entire country quick, more quickly than any other major economy in the world, and now we're having a hard time convincing people to take them. The politics around this are nasty and as divided as the country, absolutely not what you want to see in response to a health crisis.

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If your country had suffered decades of crippling corruption, wouldn't you want to prosecute those responsible? Of course you would. On Sunday, almost 98 percent of Mexicans who voted in a national referendum on this subject said, in so many words: "Yes, please prosecute the last five presidents for corruption!"

The catch is that turnout was a dismal 7 percent, meaning the plebiscite fell way short of the 40 percent turnout threshold required for its result to be binding.

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The COVID delta variant — which first surfaced in India earlier this year — is spreading rampantly throughout every continent, and is now the most dominant strain globally. But low- and middle-income countries, particularly in regions where vaccines have been scarce, are bearing the brunt of the fallout from the more contagious strain. We take a look at the 10 countries now recording the highest number of daily COVID deaths (per 1 million people), and their corresponding vaccination rates.

China tackles delta: China is the latest country to express serious concern over the highly contagious delta variant, after recording 300 cases in 10 days. Authorities there are trying to trace some 70,000 people who may have attended a theatre in Zhangjiajie, a city in China's Hunan province, which is now thought to have been a delta hotspot. Making matters worse, a busy domestic travel season in China saw millions recently on the move to visit friends and family just as delta infections spiked in more than a dozen provinces. Authorities have enforced new travel restrictions in many places, including in central Hunan province, where more than 1.2 million people have been told to stay in their homes for three days while authorities roll out a mass testing scheme. The outbreak has reached Beijing, too, with authorities limiting entrance to the capital to "essential travelers" only. Indeed, the outbreak has raised fresh concerns about Chinese vaccines' protection against delta, though many experts say they are still at least 55 percent effective in preventing serious illness.

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It was a weird series of events. Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya took to Instagram to lament that her country's Olympic Committee had registered her for the 4x400 relay event at the eleventh hour (because a fellow participant had failed to pass drug screenings) despite not having trained.

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100: A scorching heat wave has caused more than 100 wildfires across Turkey's Mediterranean and Aegean coastline in recent days. Scientists say that dry conditions induced by climate change have helped spread the fires, which have already killed eight people and caused mass evacuations from tourist hotspots.

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Alcohol. It's a dangerous drug that has ruined countless lives and derailed many a global summit. But it's also humanity's oldest social lubricant, a magical elixir that can fuel diplomatic breakthroughs, well into the wee hours of the night. As Winston Churchill once quipped, "I've taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." On GZERO World, we take a deep dive down the bottle and examine the role alcohol has played in society, politics, and global summitry—from the earliest hunter-gatherer days to that memorable Obama Beer Summit in 2009. Joining Ian Bremmer is philosopher Edward Slingerland, whose new book Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way Into Civilization makes a compelling, if nuanced, case for alcohol's place in the world.

Also: since alcohol isn't the only social drug, a look at the state of marijuana legalization across the US and around the world.

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GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal