Is May's New Brexit Deal As Good As It Gets?

(Bloomberg) --

With just 17 days until the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, Theresa May is inching toward “yes.”

After frantic talks last night in Strasbourg, the prime minister has a slightly better deal for the British Parliament to vote on tonight. It’s still short of what she sought, but the new documents potentially give some legal clarity to euro-skeptics fearing they will be tied into the EU’s trade rules indefinitely due to the need to avoid a formal border between the U.K. and Ireland.

The EU has indicated it would be willing to give the U.K. more time, but it doesn’t want to go past late May because that would complicate European parliamentary elections. So that puts the onus on May to show progress.

Her attorney-general is expected today to endorse the new legal language, which should help. The question is by how much. Right now the Irish prime minister is reserving judgment on the latest proposal.

The last time May put a Brexit agreement before parliament she suffered a massive loss —  by more than 200 votes. That margin could narrow tonight. A “less bad” loss of say 50 votes would give her momentum to nudge recalcitrant lawmakers over the line by holding a third vote before Brexit day. Her message — this is as good as it’s going to get.

Is May's New Brexit Deal As Good As It Gets?

Global Headlines

Boiling point | Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said the U.S. will pull all remaining personnel from its embassy in Caracas, after blasting Russia and Cuba for their continued support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Pompeo’s comments came as a power crisis knocks utilities out of commission, risking supplies for 5.5 million people, many of whom have found themselves reduced to filling buckets with filthy river water.

Is May's New Brexit Deal As Good As It Gets?

Impeachment split | Progressive Democrats are holding open the possibility of impeaching Trump — putting them at odds with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said she doesn’t want to seek to remove the president from office without bipartisan support. That exposes a divide among Democrats who say the president needs to be held accountable for actions that are already public and those who want more evidence of wrongdoing. 

Xi wary | As trade talks continue to make progress, one big question remains: Does Chinese President Xi Jinping trust U.S. President Donald Trump enough to get on a plane and seal a deal in the U.S.? Xi has reason to worry. Trump has scuppered two agreements that could’ve averted a trade war in the past two years, and just last month walked out on Kim Jong Un in Hanoi.

Too little, too late | Algeria’s aging rulers may need to think again if they hoped President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s decision not to seek a fifth term and postpone elections would buy them time. The move effectively extends the 82-year-old’s rule, and some protesters, who’ve grown bolder since their demonstrations began two weeks ago, are demanding the end of “le pouvoir” — the cabal of military officers, veterans of the independence war and businessmen who’ve run the OPEC nation for decades.

Going, going... | The global order that underpins German prosperity is unraveling, and Angela Merkel doesn’t know what to do about it. Trump’s “America First” policy is forcing Germany to make an impossible choice between the U.S. and China, Birgit Jennen writes, pitting the force behind the country’s modern economic success against the key to its future growth. The result is political paralysis at a time when Germany’s allies are looking for leadership.

What to Watch

  • Boeing is facing a growing crisis of confidence over its 737 Max 8 jet, as regulators and airlines from Singapore to Australia move to ground or block the plane after two deadly crashes in five months.
  • Two closely watched potential Democratic presidential contenders are making noise like they may still enter the crowded 2020 field: Former Vice President Joe Biden addresses a key labor ally in Washington today, and ex-U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke plans to be in Iowa this weekend campaigning for a local candidate.
  • European People’s Party’s chief Manfred Weber today will offer Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban a last chance to avoid expulsion from the EU’s largest political bloc, which would push him closer to hard-line nationalist groups.

And finally... Blenders, television sets and even goats are handed out as gifts to win over voters in India’s elections. In a country where more than half the citizens live on just $3 a day, next month’s poll could cost $7 billion — surpassing the $6.5 billion spent in the 2016 U.S. elections. Most of the funding isn’t publicly disclosed and much of it will go on social media: In February, more than $574,000 was spent on political advertising on Facebook alone.

Is May's New Brexit Deal As Good As It Gets?

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