Brussels Edition: Who Calls the Shots?

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

The EU faces a Brexit quandary. Last night, the British Parliament added yet another twist to the saga by voting against the possibility of crashing out of the bloc with no deal. Problem is, it’s really not up to the members of parliament because that’s the default option if they don’t approve the deal or don’t delay the exit date. Today, lawmakers vote again — this time on a Brexit postponement until June 30. That’s not their call either. It depends on the 27 other leaders approving such a request unanimously. Right now, there’s no consensus across the EU over how long such a delay should be, or even whether to grant one at all.

What’s Happening

NATO Report | Attention Donald Trump. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is due to release his latest annual report, showing how close members — including Germany — are to meeting a pledge to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on the military. European nations averaged 1.46 percent in 2017.

Male Dominance | Three men will be endorsed today by the European Parliament for senior positions at the European Central Bank and two other financial authorities. The assembly will also call on member states and the European Commission to promote more women in the next round of nominations — something capitals say they’re willing to do.

Referendum Burnout | One unexpected consequence of the U.K.’s decision to put its EU membership to a popular vote has emerged in Denmark. Parliament in the country, which joined the bloc in the same year as Britain almost half a century ago, has cooled to the idea of holding a referendum on whether the country should join the banking union.

Clearing Deal | Firms in the U.K. and the U.S. might have to accept greater control by EU authorities if they want to keep servicing clients in the bloc. That’s after EU negotiators reached a political deal on how to supervise foreign derivatives clearinghouses, capping a heated debate that erupted after the Brexit referendum. 

In Case You Missed It

Apple Vs. Spotify | Apple should be probed by the EU’s antitrust agency over how it allegedly squeezes rival music-streaming services, Spotify said yesterday, escalating a row over the iPhone maker’s practice of taking a cut of sales on its app store. EU regulators are increasingly wary of technology platforms controlling online ecosystems to rig the game to their advantage.

Merger Pushback | Deutsche Bank faces stiff resistance from some supervisory board members to a merger with rival Commerzbank over the prospect of tens of thousands of job cuts as the two lenders  edge closer to a deal. Here’s our QuickTake on why we almost never have any good news to give you about European banks.

Dirty Money | The money-laundering scandals pouring out of the Nordic banks may seem like deja vu, given the litany of past incidents in Europe’s banking sector. It’s practically taken for granted that there’s always someone somewhere trying to make ill-gotten wealth look innocent, Alan Katz reports.

Palm Oil | The EU set new criteria for palm oil use in biofuels in a balancing act to avert a trade war with Asia while appeasing climate hawks at home. Indonesia and Malaysia, which account for 85 percent of global supply, have warned of retaliation against “discriminatory” measures, while palm oil prices are down 15 percent since early 2018 amid the EU environmental campaign.

Naughty Swedes | And now a First World problem: after successive years of budget surpluses, Sweden is predicted to breach its own rules for how low its debt can go and will need to explain it to Parliament. The government seems to have no fiscal fireworks up its sleeve, despite record-low interest rates and calls for better infrastructure, health care and welfare.

Chart of the Day

Brussels Edition: Who Calls the Shots?

There is not a single country in the EU where the birth rate is high enough to prevent the population from shrinking. Eurostat data released this week confirm that an all-but-irreversible demographic decline — straining the bloc’s welfare systems and damping its growth outlook — is only getting worse. Without immigrants to replenish its ranks, pay taxes and work, Europe runs the risk of dying off.

Today’s Agenda

All times CET.

  • 11 a.m. Eurostat to release 2018 data on asylum applicants in the EU 
  • 5:15 p.m. EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier speaks in Bucharest
  • EU and the UN will co-chair the third conference on ‘Supporting the future of Syria and the region’ 
  • Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivers a keynote speech at the Spring Assembly of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU
  • NATO presents latest data on defense spending

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