Week in Review

16 November 2018

UK Prime Minister Theresa May meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May meets with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels.


CABINET CHAOS AS PM MAY REACHES BREXIT DEAL. UK Prime Minister Theresa May, after reaching a draft agreement with Brussels on the terms of Britain's departure from the EU, has faced hostility from within her own party. The 585 page agreement covers several areas of the Brexit deal, including financial settlements between Britain and the EU, the rights of British citizens in the EU and vice versa, a transitional period, and how fishing rights in British and EU waters will be implemented. Notably, it also outlines an approach to the border between Northern Ireland the Republic of Ireland. The draft seems to make good on the promise made between Britain and the EU in 2017 to avoid a hard border at all costs. If a trade agreement that avoids a hard border is not achieved by the end of the transition period, the draft agreement outlines a “backstop” solution in which a temporary single customs territory would encompass the UK and the EU until an agreement that avoids a hard border can be established. Two cabinet ministers and two junior ministers have resigned over the deal, including Brexit secretary Dominic Raab. Outside of her own party's hardline brexiteers, her plan has been roundly criticized by the Labour Party, and by the Democratic Unionist Party, who she needs to maintain her parliamentary majority. Not only must May attempt to get her deal approved in parliament, but she must also fend off threats of a no-confidence vote from within her own party. Prominent Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he supports such a move. 48 Tory MPs are required in order to call a leadership contest. This multifaceted struggle marks May's most difficult political challenge of her career.

SAUDI PROSECUTOR SEEK DEATH PENALTY FOR KHASHOGGI MURDER. After over a month of investigation into the death of Jamal Khashoggi, many questions are still left unanswered. The Saudi Government had repeatedly said that Jamal Khashoggi had safely left the consulate in Turkey, however then altered their statement to admit he was murdered. In recent news, it is now being reported that Saudi prosecutors will seek the death penalty for five people who were thought to have been involved in the death of Khashoggi. The international community has been heavily criticizing Saudi Arabia and the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for failing to take any action on this horrible matter, however after over a month it has finally begun. Although, it is being questioned what the motives behind this action are and if they are due to the pressure and criticism from the international community and are strategically motivated, which many political officials from around the world find believable. Lastly, despite bin Salman’s claim that he was completely unaware of the operation that was in place to murder Khashoggi, it is popularly argued within the international community that the operation could not have happened without the authorization of bin Salman. It will be interesting to see where the investigation goes from here and how it impacts Saudi Arabia’s relations on an international scale.

MIGRANTS REACH US BORDER. The first portion of a caravan of asylum-seekers travelling to the United States from Central America has reached the American border in the Mexican city of Tijuana. In response, the United States has deployed over 5000 troops to the Mexican border with orders to obstruct the caravan, and President Donald Trump has ordered that up to 15 000 troops may be used. Trump had been stoking public fears about the caravan in recent weeks leading up to his country's midterm elections on November 6th, but has since fallen silent on the issue, leading many to believe that he used the caravan as a political tool to encourage Republicans to vote. Meanwhile the Mexican government has refused to provide funding to communities hosting the migrants. In Tijuana, where migrant shelters are designed to hold dozens rather than thousands of people, this could lead to a crisis if all or most of the migrants are denied entry to the United States. In this scenario migrants would be forced to stay in the city while they wait for an opportunity to cross the border or return home, leading to the volunteer food and shelter provisions being overdrawn in the interim period.

VENEZUELA DISPAIRS AS COMPANIES FLEE. Large companies, such as Nestle and SmurfKappa, have begun exiting the Venezuelan economy by abandoning the factories and plants they operate. This marks a further deterioration and loss of confidence by industry leaders that President Maduro can quell issues of hyperinflation and social unrest. Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government has suggested that workers themselves run the plant and distribution chains; however, this remains questionable, as the Venezuelan MNC subsidiaries themselves lack the marketing and operational ability to run these plants.

THE DIVISION OF JEWISH AMERICA. As an unfortunate result of the Pittsburgh shooting, there has been evidence of a mass divide in America’s Jewish community, where at the heart of this divide lies President Trump. After the brutal murder of 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue by a Neo-Nazi sympathizer, President Trump denounced relevance of antisemitism, where he confidently blamed “both sides” for the horrendous act. Such division between Jewish communities and greater America have caused many Jewish citizens to question their belonging in a country whose president is known for his rhetorical violence and the power he provides the far-right white nationalists. As per the Anti-Defamation League, founded over a century prior to monitor anti-semitism, there has been a surge of anti-Semitic remarks made since the election of Donald Trump. Today, Nazis, Neo-Nazis, Holocaust deniers, white supremacists, and those who align with them are all running for powerful positions – all beneath the Republican banner. Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn those who display hatred is itself an act of encouragement.

FORCE ROHINGYA REPATRIATION. In recent weeks the security presence in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh has been ramping up in response to a deal made between the Bangladesh and Myanmar governments concerning the repatriation of Rohingya refugees. Many Rohingya fled the Rakhine state of Myanmar in August 2017 to escape the murders, rape, and arson that was being perpetrated against their community by the Myanmar military, and described by a UN report as a genocide. The Rohingya are facing forced repatriation, beginning in mid-November, despite the ongoing threat of violence that they will encounter on their return to Myanmar. Over 700,000 Rohingya have been living in Bangladesh refugee camps for the last year and as the reality of forced repatriation looms many are going into hiding. It has been speculated that the Bangladesh government’s deal with Myanmar has been prompted by their coming general election in December, with the refugee camps being a politically contentious issue.

DENMARK WITHHOLDS AID TO TANZANIA. Denmark has announced they will be withholding humanitarian aid of up to $9.8 million to Tanzania for homophobic remarks made by one of the country’s government officials. Denmark, along with the EU, is showing concern for the homophobic developments in Tanzania. The Tanzanian government has attempted to separate itself from the official but the media backlash has been substantial. A World Bank official has suspended visiting the country, and the EU reports it will be reviewing its $700 million support system to the nation. These actions are due in part to growing concerns, including the 30-year jail sentence that LGBT people face there.

DISCOVERY OF HIDDEN MISSILES IN NORTH KOREA. It appears that the Kim Jong Un Regime in North Korea is covertly continuing its ballistic missile program, as 16 hidden, testing bases that have been identified in new commercial satellite images. This group of bases have been known to U.S. intelligence agencies for quite some time, but are ignored as President Trump proclaims to have resolved the North’s nuclear security threat. This contradicts Trump’s claim that he has solved the North Korean question, and this new development questions the continued existence of the relative calm and security that has blossomed on the peninsula in recent times.

NUON CHEA AND KHIEU SAMPHAN FOUND GUILTY OF GENOCIDE. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan have been found guilty of genocide for the acts carried out during Pol Pot’s communist regime in Cambodia, and have been sentenced to life imprisonment. Between 1977 and 1979 nearly 2 million Cambodians were killed, through mass executions, starvation and labour camps. At the time Nuon Chea served as the second in command to Pol Pot, and Khieu Samphan as head of state. Although neither deny their roles in the regime, they deny committing genocide. Although they were already serving life sentences for crimes against humanity, the conviction holds a symbolic significance for those who were affected by the atrocities that were committed. The Khmer Rouge trials’ significance have been compared to the nuremberg trials that occurred after world war two.