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March 29, 2017

Daily News Brief

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UK Triggers Exit From EU

United Kingdom Prime Minister Theresa May formally triggered Article 50 of the European Union treaty, which initiates the negotiation process to remove Britain from the bloc. The UK's EU ambassador delivered the notification to European Council President Donald Tusk in Brussels (FT) on Wednesday, nine months after the surprise result of the Brexit referendum. The UK is expected to first negotiate with EU officials on the status of EU citizens residing in Britain (Guardian) and payments the United Kingdom may owe to the bloc. The invocation of Article 50 initiates a two-year period of negotiations (WSJ) and makes the UK the first member to ever leave the EU.


"The negotiations are expected to be tough. Early indications are that Britain and the EU are far apart. Mrs. May has said Britain would pursue a clean break from the EU, regaining control over immigration, leaving the jurisdiction of the bloc’s courts and exiting its common market. British officials have said they want to negotiate the best new deal they can for trade with the EU. European leaders have said they don’t want to punish the U.K. for leaving, but won’t grant Britain a better deal outside the club than it had in it," Jenny Gross writes for the Wall Street Journal.

"May's government simultaneously promises a rigorously hard border with Europe and a friendly soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland; this is a bit like walling off Mexico while furnishing comfortable tunnel facilities between Ciudad Juarez and El Paso. Meanwhile, May is stalling Scotland's loud demands for another independence referendum. But the Scots, who voted to remain in the European Union, will not be reconciled to Brexit if they are denied a say in whether it applies to them," CFR's Sebastian Mallaby writes for the Washington Post.

"Theresa May has stated that 'I am clear that no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain'. Let us hope that she does not believe this. Failing to reach a deal would be bad for everybody. Mrs. May has no mandate for the threat she has made of turning the UK into a low-tax, minimum-regulation country. The internal divisions such a strategy would bring would make those created by the referendum look like a mock battle compared with a real one. The UK certainly needs a deal, but so does the EU. The tragedy would be far worse without one," Martin Wolf writes for the Financial Times.


Toshiba's U.S. Nuclear Unit Files for Bankruptcy

Westinghouse, the U.S. nuclear unit of Japan's Toshiba Corporation, filed for bankruptcy (Reuters) as Toshiba projected its annual loss could reach $9.1 billion (Bloomberg).

SOUTH KOREA: Seoul now ranks among the world's three most polluted cities (FT) in daily tallies. Some nine million South Koreans are at risk for early death due to pollution, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.


India Seeks Cricket Series With Pakistan

India's governing body for cricket has requested approval from the Home Ministry for a series of India-Pakistan matches in Dubai (Hindustan Times) later this year. It would be the first bilateral series (India Today) between the countries since 2012.

BANGLADESH: India is expected to announce a $3.5 billion credit line (Bloomberg) to Bangladesh when its Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, visits in April. The fund would be the third and largest credit line to the country by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.


Arab League Summit Begins in Jordan

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, envoys from Russia and the United States, and sixteen heads of state (Al Jazeera) from the Arab League are meeting in Jordan for the regional bloc's annual summit. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (Sudan Tribune) arrived on Tuesday for the summit, prompting calls by rights groups for Jordanian officials to comply with Bashir's indictment by the International Criminal Court and arrest him.

SYRIA: The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a monitoring group, reported that the Syrian government and rebels reached a deal on the evacuation of sixteen thousand Shia residents (Reuters) in government-held towns in exchange for the evacuation of Sunni rebels from two other towns. The observatory's director called the move "a demographic change on a sectarian basis."

This CFR Interactive looks at Sunni and Shia populations in the Middle East. 


Three Bodies of UN Employees Found in DRC

Two UN researchers from the United States and Sweden, and their interpreter, were found dead in the Democratic Republic of Congo's central Kasai region (BBC). They, along with three other support staff, were abducted while investigating human rights abuses in the region.

This CFR Global Conflict Tracker looks at violence in the DRC.

IVORY COAST: A jury voted to acquit former first lady Simone Gbagbo (AP) of war crimes and crimes against humanity; the prosecution had accused Gbagbo of inciting violence against her husband's opponents. The International Criminal Court has also indicted her for crimes against humanity.


Macron Gets Backing From Former Socialist PM

Former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls endorsed centrist presidential candidate Manuel Macron (France24) rather than his party's Benoit Hamon. Valls said he would do all he could to ensure candidate Marine Le Pen does not win the May vote.


EU to Send Inspectors to Brazilian Meat Plants

The European Union announced it will send a group of experts to Brazil to verify its meat inspection procedures (LAHT). The bloc banned Brazilian meat originating from meatpacking plants cited in a recent fraud investigation and recommended that member nations reinforce inspections of all Brazilian meat products.

MEXICO: Mining company Grupo Mexico announced that it will acquire the East Coast Florida Railway in a $2.1 billion deal (Reuters). Grupo Mexico has about 6,500 miles of rail lines in Mexico and Texas (FT).


Trump Signs Rollback of Clean Power Plan

President Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to begin a withdrawal and rewrite of the Clean Power Plan (NYT), which was initiated by former President Barack Obama. The plan would have shuttered hundreds of coal plants in favor of wind and solar farms.

CFR's Jennifer Wilson discusses what Trump can do with the Paris climate accord.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution that would block internet privacy rules (BBC) passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year. The resolution would not require broadband providers to seek users' permission (CNET) before selling their browsing data to third parties.