Monday, Mar. 13

Monday, Mar. 13

The stories that matter before they happen.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END: FINAL BREXIT BILL VOTE

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

The actual Brexit process is (finally) expected to begin in the coming weeks, possibly as early as Saturday. But first, the lower house must approve the much-debated Brexit bill, which has ping-ponged between chambers for months now. On Monday it will get its first chance to do so.

Prime Minister Theresa May will ask the House of Commons to undo amendments added by the upper house – a provision that preserves the rights of EU citizens and one requiring parliamentary approval on the final Brexit deal with the EU. The PM insists these inclusions weaken the country’s negotiating position with the EU because they give away benefits that could otherwise be used to extract concessions from the bloc.

Ms May’s Conservative Party holds a slim five-seat majority in the lower house, so the bill’s un-amended passage is guaranteed if she can enforce strict party discipline. This will be challenging. A number of senior party figures have threatened to oppose the original bill, which would delay the entire Brexit process.

If Monday’s vote goes off without a hitch, the world will be a small step closer to the beginning of the end of the UK’s EU membership.

RUSSIAN EUROVISION BOYCOTT? MUSICAL KITCH MEETS GEOPOLITICS

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Europe’s annual musical extravaganza is loved and lampooned across the Continent. 125 million viewers tune in to watch contestants from each nation participate in what is also an undeniably political competition. Monday is the deadline for countries to submit their songs.

The contest began in 1956 as a way to bring together a still-divided post-war Europe. The winning country secures the right to host the event in the following year, which brings image-boosting benefits. Ukraine won last year with a poignant entry lamenting the ethnic cleansing of Crimean Tatars by Soviet Russia in 1944. Moscow was enraged, ranting about a “propaganda and information war” being waged against it.

Kremlin-loyal lawmakers are now calling for a boycott of this year’s Eurovision contest, which will be held in May. If Russia does not meet Monday’s submission deadline, expect it to use concerns over Russians’ safety in Ukraine as a pretext. While Eurovision has always been political, this year the cheesy and saccharine performances will be marked by bitter geopolitical undertones.

ALL TALK NO ACTION: PEACE IN YEMEN

Photo: Reuters/Khaled Abdullah

Photo: Reuters/Khaled Abdullah

Five countries critical to the ongoing Yemen crisis will meet in London on Monday, to be briefed by the UN Envoy to Yemen on the possibility of a political settlement. Foreign ministers from Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, US and UK will express concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation and support the UN-backed efforts to end the crisis, but don’t expect concrete outcomes.

Yemen’s crisis erupted in 2014, when Iranian-linked Houthi rebels stormed the capital of Sana’a, ousting the Saudi Arabia-allied government; Riyadh began bombing the country in March 2015.

Both Saudi Arabia and America’s involvement is likely to intensify following President Trump’s approval of further weapon sales to the Kingdom last month. A similar move was blocked by the Obama administration over human rights concerns. But backers of the recent deal argue that Saudi Arabia is a vital American ally in the region.

Last week Trump approved more air strikes on al-Qaeda in Yemen than Obama did in an entire year, suggesting violence in the war-torn country may worsen before lasting peace can be found.

Dig deeper: Saudi-Iranian relations

 

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

The US and South Korea will begin a computer-simulation of a military conflict with North Korea. Expect aggressive rhetoric out of Pyongyang in response – Mr Kim hates military drills.

Nigeria’s president will return to work after a 50-day absence while on medical leave. The markets are nervous about Mr Buhari’s health; Nigeria’s bourse jumped on his return but lost most of these gains after he announced he would take an additional two days of leave.

A Council of Europe commission will release a report on Turkey’s proposed constitutional changes, which will be put to a referendum on April 16. It’s likely to warn of creeping authoritarianism. Meanwhile, Turkish authorities are locked in disputes with multiple European countries including Germany, the Netherlands and Austria – which have prohibited pro-Erdogan political rallies. The situation bodes poorly for cooperation between the EU and Turkey on migration and security.

Authorities in India will lift ATM withdrawal limits that were put in place after last year’s shock demonetisation. Currently, people can only withdraw 10,000 rupees (about $150) per day.