Brussels Edition: Refusing to Back Down

(Bloomberg) -- Welcome to the Brussels Edition, Bloomberg’s daily briefing on what matters most in the heart of the European Union.

Italy could be closer to a day of reckoning over its extravagant spending plans as the European Commission releases opinions on member states’ 2019 budgets. Given that Italy’s populist leaders refuse to back down, Brussels probably won’t budge on an earlier verdict that the fiscal plans breach EU rules. Cranking up the pressure on Italy, the commission is also expected today to expedite the release of a report on Italy’s compliance with EU debt rules, potentially marking the first step toward a disciplinary procedure that could threaten Italy with fines if it doesn’t acquiesce. As the spat drags on,, even domestic bond buyers in Italy are getting nervous.

What’s Happening

Final Sprint | Less than a week after losing her top negotiator, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is taking the reins as Brexit talks enter the final sprint. Today, she’ll travel to Brussels to see European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. Even if that goes well and the bid to unseat her at home continues to falter, May still faces the herculean task of convincing parliament to back the deal.

Tariff Turf | Donald Trump’s “America First” trade policy will be put on trial as the World Trade Organization in Geneva entertains Chinese and EU requests to rule on the legality of his steel and aluminium tariffs. Trump argues the levies are about protecting national security. Whether the global trade body agrees or rules against him, the decision is likely to have wide-reaching repercussions.

Whistle Blower | Two days after telling Danish lawmakers he was offered money to stay silent, the man who helped blow the lid off the scandal at Danske Bank will be in the spotlight again. This time, Howard Wilkinson is in Brussels standing before a European parliamentary hearing on financial crime, where lawmakers will probably want to hear his views on how a reputable bank turned into a laundromat for billions of dollars in dirty money.

Another Referendum | With all the buzz around this Sunday’s Brexit summit, you'd be forgiven for overlooking the referendum Switzerland is holding on the same day courtesy of its anti-immigrant party. If successful, the vote would place Swiss legislation above international law, dealing a serious blow to the nation’s chances of negotiating a deal with the EU. Add that to the tally of referendums creating chaos in Europe.

In Case You Missed It

Inviting Automakers | The Trump administration has invited the CEOs of three German automakers for talks at the White House as European and U.S. government officials try to negotiate a new trade agreement. For the U.S. president, the talks could be a way to push the EU toward a broader trade deal.

All Clear | Japanese drugmaker Takeda crossed the biggest hurdle facing its $62 billion takeover of Shire by getting an EU go-ahead for the deal yesterday. Europe had posed a challenge to the transaction because of anti-trust concerns that a drug in Shire’s pipeline would overlap with Takeda’s own treatment for inflammatory bowel disease. Here’s how Takeda got its way.

Tougher Screening | In the clearest sign yet that the EU is worried about a surge in Chinese money in the continent, negotiators approved the first bloc-wide rules to vet foreign investments and prevent those deemed as a threat to national security. The plan would see the EU investigate foreign investments in critical sectors.

Brussels Edition: Refusing to Back Down

Step aside OPEC, the price of the global economy’s most valuable commodity now comes down to three men: U.S. President Donald Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Their actions (or tweets) will determine the course of crude prices in 2019 and beyond, Julian Lee writes

Today’s Agenda

All times CET.

  • 9:15 a.m. European Parliament’s Special Committee on Financial Crimes, Tax Evasion and Tax Avoidance holds hearing with Howard Wilkinson, the Danske Bank whistle-blower 
  • ~12 p.m. The European Commission in Brussels will publish opinions on the draft budget plans of euro-area countries. It is also expected to bring forward publication of a report on Italy’s debt that’ll show the nation is breaching EU fiscal rules -- the first step in a process that can eventually lead to financial penalties 
  • 2:00 p.m. EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and other commissioners receive the government of Georgia for a working lunch; Juncker will also hold a joint press conference with Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze
  • 5:30 p.m. Juncker to meet with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May in Brussels
  • Eurostat to release Macroeconomic Imbalance Procedure scoreboard for 2017 
  • World Trade Organization in Geneva rules on dispute requests related to the U.S.’s 232 and 301 tariffs 
  • EU top court adviser gives non-binding opinion in a case concerning re-privatization of Portuguese airline TAP

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