Friday, September 22

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May Holds Talks With Italian PM Matteo Renzi
Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty


Theresa May to give keynote Brexit speech in Florence

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May Holds Talks With Italian PM Matteo Renzi
Photo: Franco Origlia/Getty

British Prime Minister Theresa May will give a speech in Florence today to address the current status of Brexit negotiations.

The PM will likely propose the UK’s first “divorce bill” offer to the EU; reports suggest the sum will be somewhere around the $24 billion mark and will be paid over the course of two years. Officials in Brussels claim that the UK owes them up to $72 billion.

Apart from the initial proposition, it’s unlikely that Ms May will give away much when it comes to details of post-Brexit relations with the bloc. Regardless, the offer will allow for more focused negotiations in the future, which will undoubtedly focus on access to the common market for British financial corporations.

Unable to have access to the common market, British financial companies could experience extreme consequences. As such, Chancellor Philip Hammond is seeking a “bespoke” deal to protect Britain’s financial sector. If an agreement cannot be struck soon, expect London’s status as a financial powerhouse to be injured, as many banks will look to relocate to maintain access to the EU.


Turkey mulls sanctioning Iraqi Kurdistan ahead of referendum

Supporters carry the Iraqi Kurdish flag
Photo: AFP/Safin Hamed

Today, Turkey’s National Security Council will meet to formulate its official response to the planned September 25 Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum.

Iraq’s Supreme Court ordered the vote to be postponed, and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi threatened force if the aftermath turns violent. Nevertheless, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Masoud Barzani says there is no turning back.

For Ankara, the concern is that an independent Iraqi Kurdistan could inspire further pushes for autonomy from within Turkey’s own Kurdish population. Turkish President Recep Erdogan has permitted military exercises on the Iraqi border and has threatened economic sanctions, which may include leveraging KRG dependence on oil exports through Turkey.

Calling for delay on the plebiscite, the US, UK and UN claim the timing distracts from anti-ISIS efforts. With its future in the balance, the KRG holds its breath as US and Turkish leaders meet at the UN today to discuss the fate of the autonomous region.

Delve deeper: Kurdish independence vote: status quo or powder keg?


Macron’s labour reforms to be implemented today

French union members light flares in Marseille
Photo: Jean-Paul Pelissier/Reuters

Today, French President Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet will initiate his labour reforms, which were unveiled on August 31. Despite some resistance from labour unions, Macron is expected to push ahead with his policies.

Many economists blame France’s near 10% unemployment rate, two percentage points higher than the EU average, on the county’s strong worker protection measures and costly employee benefits.

The reforms– some of which cap unfair dismissal compensation and give companies more power to individually negotiate labour agreements– are intended to expedite the process through which firms hire and fire employees.  The modifications specifically target companies with fewer than 50 employees, as they constitute a majority of French businesses.

The reforms’ immediate effects on unemployment remain unclear. By increasing market fluidity, it is possible that, in the short-term, the measures could cause a spike in layoffs. In the long-term, any substantial decreases in unemployment that could be attributed to the reforms will not be seen for a number of years.


North Korean war of words, Syria’s Kurds vote, Swiss politics

Photo: KCNA

Update: this speech has been postponed until Saturday. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho will deliver a speech to the UN General Assembly today. Mr Ri—who likened Donald Trump’s address to the Assembly on Tuesday as the “sound of a dog barking”—is expected to pull no punches in a speech that’s likely to be rich in bluster but light on substance. Later in the day, North Korea’s top diplomat is expected to meet with UN chief Antonio Guterres, who will undoubtedly push for a resumption of diplomatic talks between Pyongyang and the international community. Indeed, with Pyongyang and its regional adversaries playing a dangerous game of brinkmanship, calm diplomacy is desperately needed to avert a potential disaster.

While Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government prepares for a controversial independence referendum, Syria’s Kurds will quietly hold local elections today, angering Turkey and the Assad regime. The head of the largest Syrian Kurdish party says the vote is not designed to split Syria but rather is “the first step to consolidating the federal system”.

Switzerland’s four-party coalition government will fill out its cabinet today. Ignazio Cassis, who’s widely expected to be named foreign minister, has called for fresh talks with the EU to ensure the continuity of a complex framework of more than 120 treaties that govern relations. In 2014, the Swiss voted to enact immigration caps, violating the EU’s freedom of movement principle. While not a European Union member, Switzerland is required to comply with most EU legislation in order to preserve its access to the bloc’s common market, where more than half of the country’s exports are sold. The Swiss government has since dropped its immigration cap plan, clearing the way for new talks on creating trade dispute mechanisms and solidifying this key relationship for the alpine country.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will hold intra-party talks designed to defuse a dispute in the politically important KwaZulu-Natal region—President Jacob Zuma’s home province. Rumblings have rocked the ANC for months, as powerful actors position themselves ahead of a crucial national congress in December, when the party will choose its next leader.


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