The Daily Brief: Wednesday, Apr. 5

The Daily Brief: Wednesday, Apr. 5

Understand the world. One brief at a time.

A ROCKY SITUATION: EU PARLIAMENT DEBATES BREXIT

Photo: Alamy

Photo: Alamy

Brexit red lines will be voted on in the European Parliament on Wednesday in a bellwether for the EU’s future stance on negotiations with London.

Wednesday’s vote has been overshadowed by an unfurling spat between Britain and Spain over recent EU guidelines, which advised that Madrid approve any future EU-UK trade deal that affects Gibraltar, a British territory also claimed by Spain. If included in the final negotiation strategy, such a clause would effectively hand Spain veto-power over the EU-UK trade deal or, alternatively, require Gibraltar to be left out of the deal altogether. Senior British MPs have rejected this prospect, some more bombastically than others.

EU member states agree that any Brexit deal cannot be more advantageous than being part of the Union, but other red lines will be much more heavily debated due to a lack of consensus. Wednesday’s vote is expected to lead to the formal articulation of EU priorities at a summit on April 29.

NO LONGER UNKNOWN: GERMANY UNVEILS CYBER COMMAND

Photo: Bundeswehr/Tom Twardy

Photo: Bundeswehr/Tom Twardy

Germany unveils its new cyber command on Wednesday amid concerns that Russia is trying to influence continental elections.

Europe is on high alert after last year’s Democratic National Convention hack. Out of fear of compromise, Dutch authorities counted votes manually in last month’s election. The stakes will be even higher when France and Germany go to the ballots in April and September; indeed, leading French candidate Emmanuel Macron claims his campaign has already been targeted by Russian hackers.

Cyber espionage is a growing threat, both to German businesses and Berlin’s political interests. Germany’s advanced economy pays a high price for its ill-prepared defences, losing upwards of $65 billion a year to corporate cyber attacks. Until recently, Berlin has done little to deal with this threat.

Only after high-level politicians, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, found themselves targeted by the NSA did Berlin seem to have realised that the internet is no longer the neuland – unknown territory – as Ms Merkel once proclaimed it to be.

Dig deeper: The future of Russia-NATO confrontation in cyberspace

MINED OUT: MONGOLIA’S ECONOMIC WOES

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Mongolia’s parliament reconvenes on Wednesday to lay the groundwork for $5.5 billion IMF bailout.

Rich in mineral deposits and not much else, Mongolia is mired in an economic crisis brought on by plummeting commodity prices. Last year, the landlocked country witnessed its lowest growth in seven years, clocking in at just 1%.

Under the IMF bailout, Japan and South Korea will extend Ulaanbaatar up to $3 billion in aid, with a $850 million loan from Japan agreed to last week.

In order to receive these payments, Mongolia’s parliament will need to pass legislation to generate revenue by increasing taxes and reduce spending by cutting social benefits.

The latest package comes hot on the heels of a $2 billion currency swap deal with China’s central bank. For once, it looks like Beijing has received the shorter end of the stick – Mongolia has been turbocharging its ‘Third Neighbour’ policy, which aims to strengthen ties with countries other than Russia and China. The happy conclusion of a free trade agreement with Japan last year suggests lucrative economic ties are on the horizon; the IMF predicts Mongolia will return to 7-8% growth soon.

 

HAPPENING ELSEWHERE…

Jordan’s King Abdullah will make his second trip to the White House in as many months – a privilege not bestowed on any other world leader under the new administration. The Jordanian visit comes just days after President Trump held talks with Egypt’s president. Both countries neighbour Israel and both hold substantial influence over Palestinian functions, suggesting a renewed push on Israeli-Palestinian peace may be on the cards. Can Mr Trump successfully deploy ‘the art of the deal’ to one of the modern world’s most intractable disputes?

Conservative politicians in Iran will gather for a two-day summit to decide on a presidential candidate ahead of the May 19 election.