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Pompeo seeks to reassure Israel amid Syria turmoil

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 6:11am

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Israel's prime minister on Friday to reaffirm the countries' close ties at a time when many in Israel fear the Trump administration intends to cut and run from the Middle East. The meeting came a day after a U.S. delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence and Pompeo reached an agreement with Turkey to halt its week-old offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria. Israel has strongly condemned the offensive, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warning of "ethnic cleansing." Others have expressed fear that President Donald Trump's stated desire to get out of "stupid endless wars" in the Middle East makes him an unreliable ally as Israel faces threats from Iran.


10 things you need to know today: October 18, 2019

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 6:02am

1.Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney on Thursday admitted that the Trump administration held back military aid to get Ukraine to investigate Democrats, then hours later walked back the comments. In his first comments, Mulvaney said the White House held back $400 million in security funding to get Ukraine to investigate a debunked theory that the country was involved in 2016 election campaign hacking in a bid to help Hillary Clinton beat President Trump. He said the aid was never linked to Trump's desire for Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. In his later statement, Mulvaney said "there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election." [CNBC, The Washington Post] 2.Turkey agreed to a five-day ceasefire in Syria to allow Syrian Kurdish forces to withdraw from areas under attack by the Turkish military, Vice President Pence said Thursday after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara. Pence said the U.S. had committed to helping the Kurds, who fought alongside American troops against the Islamic State, and Erdogan had agreed to halt his offensive, although the fighting did not appear to cease immediately. President Trump's decision to move U.S. forces out of the area cleared the way for Turkey to launch its operation. The House on Wednesday passed a bipartisan measure opposing Trump's move, with critics saying he abandoned strong allies. [The Washington Post] 3.Gordon Sondland, U.S. ambassador to the European Union, told House impeachment investigators on Thursday that President Trump delegated Ukraine policy to his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Sondland, testifying under subpoena after declining a request to appear last week, said in an opening statement obtained by The New York Times that the president had rebuffed his top diplomats' advice to meet with Ukraine's new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, without any preconditions. "We were also disappointed by the president's direction that we involve Mr. Giuliani," Sondland said. "Our view was that the men and women of the State Department, not the president's personal lawyer, should take responsibility for all aspects of U.S. foreign policy toward Ukraine." [The New York Times] 4.Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Thursday told President Trump he plans to resign by the end of the year. Perry's decision came as he became a focus of the House impeachment inquiry of Trump. Perry, a former Texas governor, was one of three political appointees referred to as the "three amigos" who oversaw Ukraine policy for Trump after acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney transferred the job away from career staff, State Department official George Kent told lawmakers in closed-door testimony. Perry reportedly urged Trump to take the July call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that prompted a whistleblower complaint and then the impeachment inquiry. Perry had recently denied press reports that he was planning to step down. [USA Today, CNBC] 5.The White House announced Thursday that President Trump would host next year's Group of Seven summit at his Doral resort near Miami, Florida. Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said Trump's property would host the event "at cost" so that Trump would not profit from the summit. Democrats criticized Trump's decision to award the contract to his own hotel, noting it will bring hundreds of foreign leaders and staff to the financially struggling resort. The move was "among the most brazen examples yet of the president's corruption," said House Judiciary Chair Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), whose committee is one of three conducting the impeachment inquiry of Trump. "He is exploiting his office and making official U.S. government decisions for his personal financial gain." [The Washington Post, The New York Times] 6.European Union leaders unanimously backed a proposed Brexit deal on Thursday, hours after EU and U.K. negotiators reached the draft agreement. The deal would prevent a hard border between EU member Ireland and Britain's Northern Ireland, the two sides of the U.K.'s only land border with the EU. The deal now goes to British Parliament, which rejected proposals presented by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May. Johnson said the proposal was "a great deal for our country." Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn disagreed. "It seems the prime minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May's, which was overwhelmingly rejected," Corbyn said. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the agreement was "fair and balanced." [The Associated Press] 7.Mexican security forces captured drug boss Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a leader of the powerful Sinaloa cartel and son of imprisoned drug boss Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, but promptly released him. The federal officers who detained Guzman came under intense fire from suspected Sinaloa cartel members, and violence erupted across the Mexican city of Culiacan, with masked men firing high-powered weapons and blocking roads with burning vehicles. City residents were forced to take cover, many left with no choice but to lie flat in the street as bullets flew overhead. The release of Guzman was seen as a humiliating defeat for Mexico's government. Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said the decision was necessary to protect lives. [Los Angeles Times, CNN] 8.A powerful nor'easter storm hammered New England with winds gusting to 90 miles per hour and heavy rains on Thursday. The storm caused floods and cut power to hundreds of thousands of people. The intense weather also caused train delays and forced authorities to cancel classes at many schools. Many roads and businesses also were closed. CBS News weather contributor Jeff Berardelli said the storm became a "bomb cyclone," which occurs when a storm's pressure drops 24 millibars within 24 hours. CBS Boston reported that this storm's central pressure plunged by 30 millibars in just 15 hours, setting a record for lowest pressure during October in the area. [CBS News, NPR] 9.The Trump administration on Friday imposed tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of European Union goods, including parts and planes made by Boeing-rival Airbus, French wine, and Scottish whiskies. The tariffs took effect at midnight after U.S. and European negotiators failed to agree on a deal in last-minute talks. Aircraft from Britain, France, Germany, and Spain imported to the U.S. now will face a 10 percent tariff, a move the Trump administration announced earlier this month after the World Trade Organization ruled the U.S. could impose tariffs to offset illegal preferential treatment of Airbus by the EU. French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, who is scheduled to meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Friday, warned that "Europe is ready to retaliate." [France24, MarketWatch] 10.President Trump blasted Democrats during a rally in Texas on Thursday, calling them "crazy" for pursuing an impeachment inquiry against him. "At stake in this fight is the survival of American democracy itself," Trump said. The remarks hit what has become a recurring theme for Trump as House Democrats investigate Trump's relationship with Ukraine. A day earlier, he denounced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as "crazy Nancy" after she walked out of a meeting on Syria that devolved into insults. During the rally, Trump also continued his attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden over his son's work for a Ukraine energy company, the issue at the heart of the House inquiry into whether Trump used his office to undermine a political rival. [MarketWatch]


UN condemns Egypt crackdown on activists

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 4:39am

The UN on Friday condemned Egypt over the recent arrests of prominent activists and demanded that Cairo probe allegations that they were tortured by the security services while in custody. Several activists who played key roles in the 2011 revolution have been arrested in recent weeks, including blogger and journalist Esraa Abdel Fattah and Alaa Abdel Fattah, an iconic figure in Egypt. Alaa Adbel Fattah and his lawyer, Mohamed el-Baqer -- who is also being held -- have both been accused of belonging to and providing funding for a terrorist group, the United Nations human rights office said.


EXPLAINER-Britain's 'Super Saturday' Brexit showdown in parliament

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 4:30am

Other options include collapsing his government so that others can take control of Brexit negotiations. Johnson will make a statement to lawmakers, after which there will be a debate and then a vote. Johnson said he had agreed a "great" new Brexit deal.


Global watchdog gives Iran until Feb. 2020 to tighten anti-money laundering rules

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 4:02am

A global dirty money watchdog said on Friday it had given Iran a final deadline of February 2020 to comply with international norms after which it would urge all its members to apply counter-measures. "If before February 2020, Iran does not enact the Palermo and Terrorist Financing Conventions in line with the FATF Standards, then the FATF will fully lift the suspension of counter-measures and call on its members and urge all jurisdictions to apply effective counter-measures, in line with recommendation 19," it said in a statement.


Emolumental: Mulvaney and Trump Like Doral for a G-7 Quid Pro Quo

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 4:00am

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- If you’re wondering how the White House decided a Miami golf resort owned by President Donald Trump was the best venue for a major diplomatic gathering, the Group of Seven summit, the U.S. will host next June, Mick Mulvaney has answers.In a press briefing on Thursday, Trump’s acting chief of staff said his team made its choice after analyzing about a dozen criteria “used by past administrations” that included accommodations as well as “ballrooms, bilateral rooms, the number of rooms, the photo ops, the support hotels that are there, the proximity to cities and airports, helicopter landing zones, medical facilities, etc.”During a visit to Europe in July, the president himself said that he liked the idea of holding the G-7 at Trump National Doral because his Florida spread has “tremendous acreage” and “people are liking it.” But that didn’t mean Trump’s advisers would just roll over and do whatever their boss wanted. Instead, Mulvaney assured us, the White House deployed “an advance team” to examine multiple locations in several states. That scrutiny produced a list of four finalists the crack team pored over before deciding, against the odds, that Doral was the one.“Doral was, by far and away — far and away — the best physical facility for this meeting,” Mulvaney said at the press briefing. “In fact, I was talking to one of the advance teams when they came back, and I said, ‘What was it like?’ And they said, ‘Mick, you’re not going to believe this, but it’s almost like they built this facility to host this type of event.’” That means, presumably, that Mulvaney never had a conversation in the Oval Office about the selection process that might have gone like this:Mulvaney: “We’re looking at several sites and –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “But Mr. President, if you hold the G-7 at your own place that means that the government is using taxpayer funds to fill your wallet and –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “I just want to remind you about the grief we got when the vice president stayed at your hotel in Ireland and –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “And the grief we got about the our military personnel staying at your golf club in Scotland because –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “There’s also been lots of chatter about all of the diplomats who stay at your Washington hotel and –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “Let’s not forget the Kushners used your image and name for product marketing in China, Jared’s maneuvers with 666 Fifth Avenue, the trademarks China suddenly awarded you and Ivanka, taxpayer funds used to help Don Jr. and Eric make overseas business trips or to help you golf all the time at your own clubs, or questions about why you keep appeasing guys like Putin and Erdogan, and why you haven’t really distanced yourself from your businesses or released your tax returns and –”Trump: “Doral.”Mulvaney: “Well, I’ve thought about it, and I’d like to recommend Doral to you, Mr. President.”Trump: “Thank you Mick, that’s a great idea.”Nope, a conversation like that never could have happened and Mulvaney held his press conference to make sure reporters could take his word for it. And sure enough, a reporter did ask if Trump personally intervened to get Doral on the short list of G-7 venues. Yep, he did, Mulvaney answered.“We sat around one night. We were back in the dining room and I was going over it with a couple of our advance team. We had the list, and [Trump] goes, ‘What about Doral?’  And it was like, ‘That’s not the craziest idea. It makes perfect sense.’”That’s the kind of answer that could convince skeptics Trump is violating “emoluments” provisions in the Constitution that bar presidents from accepting payments from foreign governments (since lots of foreign governments attending the G-7 will be spending money at Doral).Mulvaney tried to get in front of that by asking and then answering the most obvious question about hosting the G-7 at Doral.“Is the president going to profit from this? I think the president has pretty much made it very clear since he’s got here that he doesn’t profit from being here. He has no interest in profit from being here,” he allowed. “It’s one of the reasons that he’s not taken a salary since he’s been here. He’s given that salary to charity. Will not be profiting here.”Reporters batted some of that back, asking why Trump didn’t see the Doral move as a pure financial conflict of interest and why Mulvaney also didn’t recognize it as free marketing and brand promotion for the president’s company. Mulvaney had no patience for that but couldn’t really put the questions to rest, either.“I was aware of the political, sort of, criticism that we’d come under for doing it at Doral, which is why I was so surprised when the advance team called back and said that this is the perfect physical location to do this.”Mulvaney also swatted down comparisons between the financial practices and ethics of Trump and those of former Vice President Joe Biden and his family – addressing the topic before reporters had even asked about it. (Trump, of course, is in the middle of an impeachment inquiry for asking the president of Ukraine to unearth financial dirt involving Biden.)“There’s no issue here on him profiting from this in any way, shape, or form,” Mulvaney reiterated about Doral. “What’s the difference between this and what we’re talking about the Bidens?  Well, first of all, there’s no profit here.  Clearly, there’s profit with the Bidens.  And, second of all, I think if there’s one difference that you look at between the Trump family and the Biden family: The Trump family made their money before they went into politics.  That’s a big difference.”That’s a problematic way to frame things though because the Trump Organization has been struggling to keep revenue and profits robust at Doral – its biggest golf property -- and thus has incentives to steer government business in its own direction. Doral has also received bad press about bedbug, roach, and other insect infestations — along with hundreds of health code violations — but reporters didn’t ask Mulvaney about that.Last year, an armed man managed to sneak into Doral, steal an American flag and drape it over a lobby counter, pull a fire alarm and then start screaming about Trump before shooting at the ceiling, chandeliers and the police who ultimately apprehended him. Reporters didn’t ask Mulvaney about security concerns if the G-7 ends up at Doral.If I was at the press conference, I also would have asked Mulvaney about the tournament Doral planned to host last summer featuring strippers serving as golfers’ “caddy girls,” but that’s probably just one of the reasons the White House doesn’t invite me to its media events.Like Sean Spicer before him, Mulvaney appears entirely willing to throw himself in front of the media and dissemble while essentially serving as one of Trump’s crash test dummies. It’s also still astounding how easily Trump co-opts people like Mulvaney and how readily Mulvaney and his ilk trample on the Constitution and shred core, non-partisan public values in Trump’s service.Consider this reporter’s question at the Thursday presser about the propriety of holding the G-7 summit at Doral. “Is there any value to sending a message to the world, especially given that all that’s happened with foreign interference and attempts at foreign interference in our country, that this president and this country is not open for the kind of self-dealing that happens in other countries? Is that not an important message to send when you’re inviting the world to come here to the United States?”“No,” Mulvaney responded.To contact the author of this story: Timothy L. O'Brien at tobrien46@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: Matthew Brooker at mbrooker1@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Timothy L. O’Brien is the executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion. He has been an editor and writer for the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, HuffPost and Talk magazine. His books include “TrumpNation: The Art of Being The Donald.”For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


UPDATE 2-Brexit on a knife edge as PM Johnson stakes all on 'Super Saturday' vote

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 3:55am

Britain's exit from the European Union hung on a knife-edge on Friday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson scrambled to persuade doubters to rally behind his last-minute European Union divorce deal in an extraordinary vote in parliament. In one of the most striking flourishes of the three-year Brexit drama, Johnson confounded his opponents on Thursday by clinching a new deal with the EU, even though the bloc had promised it would never reopen a treaty it agreed last year.


Deal between US, Turkey spawns more questions than answers

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 3:45am

President Donald Trump hailed it as a great day for civilization, but the agreement hammered out in Ankara, Turkey, between U.S. and Turkish leaders spawned more questions than answers. Thursday's deal called for a five-day pause in fighting between Turkish and Kurdish fighters and put a temporary halt to the battle along the Syrian border. It also gave the Turks the 20-mile-deep (32-kilometer-deep) safe zone in Syria that leaders in Ankara had sought for months.


UK's Mann expects more than 9 Labour lawmakers to back PM Johnson's deal - RTE

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 3:37am

Opposition Labour lawmaker John Mann will vote for Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal and expects over nine of his fellow Labour MPs to follow suit, he said on Friday. Johnson faces a Brexit showdown with parliament on Saturday after clinching a last-minute divorce deal with the European Union that his Northern Irish allies and opposition parties, including Labour, oppose. "I will be voting in favour of it, it's a deal that's been agreed with the European Union, it's a two side deal and that satisfies me," Mann told Irish national broadcaster RTE.


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang promises 'tremendous opportunities' for US firms

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 3:30am

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told American business leaders in Beijing on Thursday that China will create "tremendous opportunities" for companies from the US and around the world by continuing to open up sectors of its economy.Speaking to a visiting delegation led by Evan Greenberg, chairman of the US-China Business Council, Li said the two nations must first resolve their trade disputes through dialogue and on an equal footing."I believe there is still much potential in our business cooperation, and we continue to push forward our business ties on the basis of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefits," he said."I see great prospects awaiting us on the road ahead."On Beijing's promise to improve access to its markets " made during the latest round of trade negotiations in Washington last week " Li said the "door of opening up will only open even wider"."I have strong confidence that the ever-improving business environment in China will continue to generate tremendous market opportunities for US firms and companies from all other countries who are interested in continuing to do business in China," he saidThe government would ensure companies' property and intellectual property rights, and improve the market environment for foreign firms operating in China, Li said.The meeting came as officials from Beijing and Washington work to finalise the text of a "phase one" trade deal for Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump to sign when they meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Chile on November 16-17.The opening up of China's financial services market, the provision of better protection for US intellectual property rights and agreements on agriculture and currencies were among the major consensuses reached in the deal.Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are set to sign a "phase one" deal when they meet at the Apec summit in Chile next month. Photo: AP alt=Presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping are set to sign a "phase one" deal when they meet at the Apec summit in Chile next month. Photo: APUS Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday that he and US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer would speak to China's top negotiator, Vice-Premier Liu He, over the telephone next week and that the three men would meet in the Chilean capital of Santiago ahead of the planned meeting between Xi and Trump.Following the latest talks, the Trump administration suspended a planned 5 percentage point tariff rise to 30 per cent on US$250 billion worth of Chinese goods, but a separate increase on about US$156 billion of imports from China is still set to take effect on December 15.During the meeting with Li, Greenberg said that a decoupling of the world's two largest economies would not benefit American companies.US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (left) said he and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (right) would speak to Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He (centre) next week. Photo: Reuters alt=US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer (left) said he and US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (right) would speak to Chinese Vice-Premier Liu He (centre) next week. Photo: Reuters"This is an important period in the US-China relationship. Both countries, frankly speaking, are assessing the relationship and questioning the intentions of the other," he said."Both sides have strong forces that view the other as the threat and are advocating disengagement."But while those voices "are growing in popularity ... [disengagement] is not in our interest," he said.This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


Hit by trade war, California winemakers see their carefully cultivated market in China shrivel

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 3:30am

Dylan Wang and Sherry Duan hold their glasses up to the light before tasting the Atlas Peak merlot and Howell Mountain cabernet at Duckhorn Winery's tasting room, overlooking acres of ripe grapes.Wang, 39, an investment fund manager, and Duan, a 32-year-old lawyer, came here to California's famed Napa Valley from Shanghai to enjoy the wine, scenery and cool weather, and chose Duckhorn in part because president Barack Obama served its wine at his 2009 inauguration.One advantage of travelling all the way from China: they're avoiding prohibitive tariffs. California wineries, already battling tough global competitors, rising costs and labour shortages, are increasingly fearful the US-China trade war will exact irreversible damage after years of cultivating China's market as carefully as their vines."California wine exporters are worried they may never be able to recover market share in China," said Jock O'Connell, international trade adviser with Beacon Economics, "which they naturally have long seen as a huge opportunity for profit."Merlot grapes being harvested in California. Photo: Duckhorn Portfolio alt=Merlot grapes being harvested in California. Photo: Duckhorn PortfolioCalifornia wine exports to China are wilting. The Golden State accounts for some 95 per cent of US wine production and exports, with China sales set to hit US$30 million this year, down from US$78.7 million in 2017.Even as Chinese taxes and punitive tariffs on US wine have doubled to 98 per cent, a free-trade agreement Australia signed with Beijing has given that country tariff-free access to China's giant market.Wine is hardly the only California agricultural export suffering a hangover. California almond exports have fallen by a third and US dairy exports, another major California product, fell 54 per cent in the first half of 2019.While the Trump administration has handed out subsidies to compensate farmers for economic harm resulting from the trade war, some here say they are disadvantaged relative to Republican-leaning Midwestern wheat and soy farmers.According to US Department of Agriculture data acquired by Associated Press, California has received some US$76.3 million in federal subsidies, a fraction of the US$8.5 billion doled out nationwide, despite being the nation's top agricultural exporter."We all get penalised on an equal percentage, but relief goes to other farmers," said Pete Przybylinski, Duckhorn Portfolio's senior vice-president of sales and strategy. "Trump is no big fan of California, so the likelihood of him helping us was very small."Adding to frustration among wineries is concern that the trans-Pacific chest thumping hit just when years of hard work were starting to pay off. Their fear: growing suspicion of US brands will shape lifelong habits among Chinese consumers at a time when many are taking their first sip.Duckhorn started selling to China in 2006, gradually growing its customer base and learning the market. But at Shanghai's ProWine trade conference in late 2018, an attendee shouted that he would never buy California wine given his dislike of Trump, Przybylinski said. "That was a year ago. You can imagine what it's like now."Duckhorn Portfolio's senior vice-president of sales and strategy Pete Przybylinski. Photo: Mark Magnier alt=Duckhorn Portfolio's senior vice-president of sales and strategy Pete Przybylinski. Photo: Mark MagnierSome 32.6 million Chinese drink wine regularly, up from 21.6 million in 2014, according to Wine Intelligence, a London-based data firm. The market is also maturing from the early days when Chinese quaffed largely for wine's reported health benefits or for status, mixing US$1,000 bottles of Chateau Lafite Rothschild with Sprite.Wine experts say President Xi Jinping's 2012-13 campaign against conspicuous consumption inadvertently helped nudge consumers to become more discriminating.Gus Jian Zhu " who recently became the world's first Chinese national Master of Wine, an exhaustive three-year training and original research designation dominated by Britons and Europeans " says growing interest is leading more wealthy Chinese to invest in California wineries, sometimes less for profit than to squirrel money out of China or earn bragging rights with friends.China's wine market has good long-term potential, Zhu said. But not as much as some foreign wineries, mesmerised by China's massive population, might think, he added.Wine is often served cold, while Chinese tend to prefer heated drinks. And wine must contend with China's 2,000-year, deeply entrenched history with baijiu, the powerful grain-based alcohol sometimes likened to jet fuel."Baijiu's already so wedged into our culture. People still use it as a social tool or a friend-making tool," said Zhu, "or to get drunk at business meetings."One factor foreign wineries sometimes underestimate is the importance of finding the right Chinese script to represent their industry. The translation for the Spanish grape macabeo, 马家婆 (majiapo), can be read rather incongruously as "the old granny of the Ma family", while fume blanc is sometimes rendered as 白富美 (baifumei), a popular Chinese term describing a "white, rich and beautiful girl".Those that do it right, however, can create names that sing " and pay off. The translation for sauvignon blanc " 长相思 (chang xiangsi) " literally means "long lovesickness" evoking imagery used by Chinese poet and literary genius Li Bai (701-762 AD). And the Australian winery Penfolds uses 奔富 (ben fu), which not only sounds like its English name but translates as "chasing prosperity.""Of course it's selling well in China," said Zhu.Despite the setbacks, wine industry groups say they will continue to invest in educating consumers and sommeliers."Even though we're in a challenging time, our hope is that this doesn't last forever," said Honore Comfort, vice-president of international marketing for the Wine Institute. "We want to be in a good position when this is solved."Historically, China's alcohol culture was largely based on grain with relatively little, and largely localised, fermentation of fruit, other than in Xinjiang, where grapes are plentiful. Historians suggest small-scale use of grapes for wine may date as far back as the Han dynasty (206-220 BCE) or the Three Kingdoms period (220BC-265AD).While Chinese palettes are becoming more discerning, prestigious labels remain hugely popular, helping drive the counterfeit market, especially for China's most famous foreign brand, Chateau Lafite Rothschild.That has fuelled a spate of outright fakes and "lookalikes" such as Lafei Manor " Lafei is the Chinese pronunciation of Lafite " whose "2009" vintage label boasts: "This dry wine by adequate water and sunlight, making the wine more limpid harmony."In 2014, Xinshi Li, president of the Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine, claimed that at least half the Lafite sold in China was "probably made on boats moored along the Chinese coast, rather than vineyards in Pauillac", Quartz reported. That same year, a single house in Wenzhou was found with 10,000 counterfeit Lafite bottles.Apparently deciding if you can't beat them, join them, Rothschild last month introduced a wine called Long Dai (瓏岱), a red blend from a vineyard in Shandong province, replete with references to lucky jade, sacred mountains and praying farmers.It sells for around US$340 per bottle with an initial output of 30,000 bottles and includes heavy anti-counterfeit labels and foil with banknote-quality graphics.One company that has managed to skirt rising Chinese tariffs is Gliding Eagle, a Napa company that ships higher-end wines directly to Chinese consumers, including vintages by Calera, ZD Wines, Migration and Dry Creek Vineyard.Shipments are subject to China's lower personal consumption taxes, allowing for door-to-door delivery at about 60 per cent below the price of US wines currently transported commercially.The company has also worked with WeChat and the California International Trade Office on a programme that translates menus and wine marketing materials to Chinese visiting Napa.Chinese taxes and tariffs on American wine have doubled to 98 per cent. Photo: EPA-EFE alt=Chinese taxes and tariffs on American wine have doubled to 98 per cent. Photo: EPA-EFEBut the company is still feeling the chill, prompting it to diversify into some 30 other countries. "There's no doubt that the sentiment of the trade war hurts more than the trade issues themselves," said Adam Ivor, Gliding Eagle's co-founder. "All our countries are up 50 per cent year on year and China is down by at least that much."While high-end wines get the spotlight, most California exports involve huge vats of bulk wine. "I get calls from Chinese saying they want a shipping container," said Peterangelo Vallis, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Wine Growers Association."California has a premier sound to it, but they want the absolute cheapest they can get. The distribution channel is on bicycles in some areas."Wine snobbery and artificially high prices have hurt California's long-term export prospects, Vallis says, leaving more room for Australia, France and Italy to swoop in. California shouldn't be apologetic about shipping low-end fruity wines befitting a culture accustomed to the sweetness of beer, rice and even baijiu, he adds."A lot of Chinese flavours are a combination of sweet and sour," Vallis said. "It comes down to what you're happy with."As Przybylinski gazes over vines ripening in the autumn sun, he reflects on Duckhorn's future in China, vowing to soldier on despite the storm clouds. The winery is trying to keep prices steady despite the hit to profit margins, has hired a marketing representative in Hong Kong to be closer to the market and is testing gift boxes and different varietals to suit Chinese tastes."We're ready to go tomorrow if the trade war ended," he said. "I guess the good news for every US winery, it wasn't such a huge market to begin with, like with soy and corn. So the hit hasn't been so great."He added wistfully, "It's going to take time."This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2019 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2019. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.


Holding Off Stimulus in Germany Isn’t Just Political Mantra

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 2:58am

(Bloomberg) -- When German officials get nagged about delivering major fiscal stimulus, they have plenty of answers ready for why now isn’t the moment.Their arguments don’t just rely on the national fixation with budget prudence and the avoidance of debt though. Officials also cite their assessment of the current situation in Europe’s biggest economy, as well as tactical considerations on how a stimulus package would be effective.Such reasoning might be used often this week in Washington as Finance Minister Olaf Scholz and colleagues attend meetings of the International Monetary Fund, which on Tuesday called for Germany to invest more and reduce taxes to aid its faltering economy. Two days later, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government cut its growth forecast for 2020 to just 1%, after earlier predicting 1.5%. Data due next month may even show the economy has just slipped into recession.The IMF is far from alone. Outgoing European Central Bank President Mario Draghi said last month that it is time for “fiscal policy to take charge” in the region, and is likely to repeat that refrain at his final meeting next week. Germany, with ample fiscal space built on repeated budget surpluses, is a prime candidate. Angel Gurria, chief of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, made a smilar call on Thursday in Washington. “Even the central banks run out of ammunition -- right now, we have to complement their easing,” he told Bloomberg Television. “Countries that have room, that do not have a very big debt-to-GDP ratio, they should spend more.”While the opposition by some German lawmakers to a fiscal boost is starting to thaw, the government is holding firm for now. Here’s a look at some of the arguments they’re deploying to keep calls for stimulus at bay, based on public statements, private briefings, and confidential conversations with officials.Studying the CycleOne argument is that Germany’s slowdown doesn’t fundamentally stem from domestic weakness and the economic cycle. It’s a result of external and political factors, including global trade tensions and Brexit-related disruption. Such a situation isn’t best served by a classic stimulus response and doesn’t need measures that would normally counter the ebbing of the cycle.It’s Not AppropriateA continuation of that point is that the economy is actually close to its speed limit, with areas such as construction, where a lack of workers is causing bottlenecks, threatening to constrain expansion. Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann argued that on Wednesday, saying calls for German fiscal stimulus are “completely disconnected” from reality.“The economy is working with an almost-closed output gap,” he said in response to questions at an event in New York. “Why would you spend money when you are operating at full capacity?”Two-Speed EconomyGerman weakness has generally been limited to manufacturing and isn’t widespread, runs another argument. The auto industry has suffered from trade tensions and a slow response to the global shift toward electric vehicles. But the domestic economy remains healthy, thanks to unemployment near a record low and the benefits of extreme monetary easing.The line of reasoning holds that past spillovers from the industrial sector to the consumer aren’t happening this time, because the link between the two is weaker than it was.“It’s a two-speed Germany,” Trevor Greetham, head of multi-asset management at Royal London Asset Management, told Bloomberg Television. “The consumer is okay, and the housing market is actually rising quite strongly.”The Time Isn’t RightAnother view holds that a major budget stimulus should only be unveiled when it’s widely perceived to be needed. A fiscal boost may be more potent if announced at a time when things are really seen to be deteriorating. That was the experience in 2009 during the global financial crisis. But if ordinary people aren’t much feeling the effects of economic weakness, stimulus now could be less efficient than it otherwise would be.It Needs ThoughtA further point Weidmann made this week is that stimulus should be well aimed and not just delivered for the sake of it, suggesting the need for caution. He recommended targeted spending on infrastructure, research and education, and incentivizing work and investment through tax cuts.“It would be important to use the leeway wisely in order to promote sustainable growth in the long run and not just cause a flash in the pan,” he said.Merkel argued last month that simply spending cash isn’t what’s needed, saying “it’s currently not a lack of money” that’s the problem, and there are sufficient investment projects in the pipeline. They just need to be fast-tracked.(Updates with Gurria in fifth paragraph)\--With assistance from Francine Lacqua and Lucy Meakin.To contact the reporters on this story: Craig Stirling in Frankfurt at cstirling1@bloomberg.net;Birgit Jennen in Berlin at bjennen1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Simon Kennedy at skennedy4@bloomberg.net, Paul Gordon, Jana RandowFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Johnson Sells Brexit Deal to Parliament Before Knife-Edge Vote

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 2:44am

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Boris Johnson is battling to sell his new Brexit deal to skeptical members of the U.K. Parliament ahead of a crucial vote on Saturday.The prime minister has no majority in the House of Commons but needs to convince his own Conservatives, as well as opposition politicians, to back the divorce accord he struck with the EU on Thursday. If he fails, he will face the choice of seeking to delay Brexit again or trying to take the country out of the bloc without a deal on Oct. 31.“This is our chance in the U.K. as democrats to get Brexit done,” Johnson told a press conference in Brussels on Thursday. “People want to move this thing on, it’s been going on for a long time.”He wouldn’t be drawn on what he would he do if he loses Saturday’s vote.Defeat could unleash a political crisis unparalleled in modern times: despite EU leaders leaving open the possibility of allowing Britain more time to leave, Johnson has repeatedly refused to contemplate delaying Brexit beyond Oct. 31. Any attempt to leave without a deal would face a legal challenge and he may have to allow his plans to be tested in a general election or even a second referendum.The parliamentary arithmetic is very tight. Johnson is trying to win Saturday’s vote without the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which has categorically rejected the agreement he reached with the EU. To get the votes he needs, the premier is wooing reluctant members of his own side and trying to persuade opposition Labour politicians to back him.Former Conservative MPs who voted to block Johnson’s threat of a no-deal divorce last month -- and were thrown out of the party as a result -- have proposed an amendment to Saturday’s motion that seeks to force the government to request a delay to Brexit until a deal is passed.Under Johnson’s plan, Northern Ireland would still be subject to some of the EU’s single market rules to mitigate the need for customs checks on the border with Ireland. That would, in effect, put a customs border in the Irish Sea. The DUP says this is completely unacceptable and its 10 MPs will vote against.Will U.K. Parliament Back Boris Johnson’s Brexit? We Do the MathTo win, Johnson needs to pick up roughly 61 votes from a pool of about 75 Members of Parliament who might be persuaded to join him.There are signs that some Tories who voted down his predecessor Theresa May’s deal -- among them Steve Baker, leader of the self-described “Spartan” group of hard-core Brexiters -- are falling into line. But the DUP’s Sammy Wilson told the BBC on Friday that he and colleagues are urging the Spartans to stand with them.Johnson is also trying to win the support of a significant minority of MPs from the opposition Labour Party who believe the 2016 referendum result must be honored. To woo them, he is preparing a package of measures, including protections for workers’ rights and environmental standards after Brexit.Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a second referendum, saying Johnson’s deal -- which he described as a “sell-out” -- is worse than that put forward by May. But there are some of his MPs who may still back it. “It’s a bad deal, but if I thought we wouldn’t get Brexit at all, then I would consider voting for it,” one Labour MP, Graham Stringer, told the BBC.Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said her Scottish National Party will vote against the deal, complaining that it creates too great a separation from the EU.As attention swung toward the vote at Westminster, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker offered support to Johnson.“If we have a deal, we have a deal and there is no need for prolongation -- that’s not only the British view, that’s my view too,” Juncker said. “He and myself we don’t think that it’s possible to give another prolongation.”Even if the decision over whether to grant an extension is not his, by playing down the chances of another delay, Juncker helped frame the vote in the House of Commons as a straight choice between Johnson’s deal or no deal -- just as the British leader has tried to do himself.That increases the pressure on undecided lawmakers in Westminster to back the government -- but it also raises the cost of failure dramatically.(Updates with DUP urging Tories to stand with them in ninth paragraph.)\--With assistance from Ian Wishart, Jonathan Stearns, Viktoria Dendrinou, Nikos Chrysoloras, Helene Fouquet, Patrick Donahue, Dara Doyle, John Follain, Katharina Rosskopf, Tiago Ramos Alfaro, Milda Seputyte, Jan Bratanic and Robert Hutton.To contact the reporters on this story: Tim Ross in London at tross54@bloomberg.net;Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at tross54@bloomberg.net, Thomas Penny, Andrew AtkinsonFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Brexit on a knife edge as PM Johnson stakes all on "Super Saturday" vote

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 1:58am

Britain's exit from the European Union hung on a knife-edge on Friday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson scrambled to convince doubters to rally behind his last-minute European Union divorce deal in an extraordinary vote in parliament. In one of the most striking flourishes of the three-year Brexit drama, Johnson confounded his opponents on Thursday by clinching a new deal with the EU that had promised it would never reopen a treaty it agreed last year. "We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday," Johnson said ahead of the first Saturday sitting of parliament since the 1982 Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands.


While the Senate fiddles, Romney burns Trump's Kurdish betrayal as a strategic debacle, 'blood stain' on America

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 1:32am

On Wednesday, 129 House Republicans joined every House Democrat to pass a nonbonding resolution condemning President Trump's abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeastern Syria, paving the way for Turkey to invade and slaughter America's Kurdish allies. On Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of the few senators to back Trump's policy, blocked that resolution from coming up for a vote, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) panned it as "backward looking," saying he would prefer "something even stronger."The net effect was no action by the Senate. "History will show that the country, the Senate, and even the senator from Kentucky will regret blocking the resolution," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said afterward, referring to Paul. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced a bill to impose strict sanctions against Turkey, specifically targeting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but McConnell hasn't committed to taking it up.Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) stepped into the inertia to publicly roast Trump's troop withdrawal, explain the accurately predicted consequences, and criticize the weak "pause" in fighting Turkey agreed to and Trump touted as a great victory:> The decision to abandon the Kurds violates one of our most sacred duties. It strikes at American honor. What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a blood stain in the annals of American history. There are broad strategic implications of our decision as well. Iranian and Russian interests in the Middle East have been advanced by our decision. ... Russia's objective to play a greater role in the Middle East has also been greatly enhanced. The Kurds, out of desperation, have now aligned with [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad. So America is diminished; Russia, Iran, and Assad are strengthened. [Mitt Romney]Romney went through various defenses of Trump's policy and rebutted them. "Are we incapable of understanding and shaping complex situations? Russia seems to have figured it out," he said. "Are we so weak and so inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey?"


Extinction Rebellion Is Right to Target London

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 12:30am

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- London’s Extinction Rebellion, the undeniably effective local offshoot of the global environmental protest group, has been out in force again this week, shutting down streets in the financial district and disrupting flights from City Airport. Its so-called Autumn Uprising has led to more than 1,600 arrests, and provoked some very angry commuters. People from Greta Thunberg to Stanley Johnson, the British prime minister’s dad, have lent their support.Of course there’s official criticism too. Andrea Leadsom, the Brexiter business minister in Boris Johnson’s cabinet, says Extinction Rebellion is on the wrong streets in the wrong country. Writing in London’s Evening Standard newspaper, she claimed the U.K. has a long and proud record of global leadership on the climate, “as anyone who has looked up the facts will know.”While Leadsom may be right that there are worse offenders out there, and that Britain has taken meaningful steps to clean up its climate act, there’s a worrying whiff of complacency here. As for those facts of which Leadsom is so fond, they don’t all cast the U.K. in a glowing light.This year the U.K. became the first major economy to legislate a commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It has also made great strides in the past few decades in slashing carbon emissions — by 42% since 1990.These are welcome developments, but the future is starting to look a little dim. The government’s own projections have the U.K. missing its 2023 and 2028 carbon budgets (the name for its emissions targets) by quite a margin, as the chart below shows. These targets weren’t even aimed at getting to net-zero emissions by 2050 (the U.K. only had an 80% reduction in mind when they were set), so that hardly bodes well.The U.K.’s Committee on Climate Change, set up to monitor the country’s progress on emissions, also provides a riposte to Leadsom. Since June 2018 her government has delivered only one of the 25 critical policies needed to get emissions reductions back on track, and 10 of those haven’t even been started. Hardly a government responding to a climate emergency. In fairness, impressive progress has been made in one critical area: energy (essentially electricity generation) and heating. After a speedy phasing out of coal and take-up of renewables, the sector’s emissions drop will slow to a taper. If the U.K. is going to reach net-zero, action is needed elsewhere, and soon. Transport, for example, is now the biggest emissions sinner in the U.K. Yet four out of five targets used by the CCC to track the sector’s progress weren’t met, including new car CO2 emissions, electric car registrations and biofuel uptake.While this stalling on climate action is no doubt a symptom of a government distracted by Brexit, that’s no excuse. The U.K. is hosting the UN climate summit next year and if it’s serious about being a leader on the environment, it needs to make a success of it. Overshooting legally-binding carbon budgets doesn’t set a great example. You may not agree with their tactics, but it’s hard to argue that Extinction Rebellion should be rabble-rousing somewhere else.To contact the author of this story: Lara Williams at lwilliams218@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lara Williams manages Bloomberg Opinion's social media channels.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


Extinction Rebellion Is Right to Target London

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 12:30am

(Bloomberg Opinion) -- London’s Extinction Rebellion, the undeniably effective local offshoot of the global environmental protest group, has been out in force again this week, shutting down streets in the financial district and disrupting flights from City Airport. Its so-called Autumn Uprising has led to more than 1,600 arrests, and provoked some very angry commuters. People from Greta Thunberg to Stanley Johnson, the British prime minister’s dad, have lent their support.Of course there’s official criticism too. Andrea Leadsom, the Brexiter business minister in Boris Johnson’s cabinet, says Extinction Rebellion is on the wrong streets in the wrong country. Writing in London’s Evening Standard newspaper, she claimed the U.K. has a long and proud record of global leadership on the climate, “as anyone who has looked up the facts will know.”While Leadsom may be right that there are worse offenders out there, and that Britain has taken meaningful steps to clean up its climate act, there’s a worrying whiff of complacency here. As for those facts of which Leadsom is so fond, they don’t all cast the U.K. in a glowing light.This year the U.K. became the first major economy to legislate a commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It has also made great strides in the past few decades in slashing carbon emissions — by 42% since 1990.These are welcome developments, but the future is starting to look a little dim. The government’s own projections have the U.K. missing its 2023 and 2028 carbon budgets (the name for its emissions targets) by quite a margin, as the chart below shows. These targets weren’t even aimed at getting to net-zero emissions by 2050 (the U.K. only had an 80% reduction in mind when they were set), so that hardly bodes well.The U.K.’s Committee on Climate Change, set up to monitor the country’s progress on emissions, also provides a riposte to Leadsom. Since June 2018 her government has delivered only one of the 25 critical policies needed to get emissions reductions back on track, and 10 of those haven’t even been started. Hardly a government responding to a climate emergency. In fairness, impressive progress has been made in one critical area: energy (essentially electricity generation) and heating. After a speedy phasing out of coal and take-up of renewables, the sector’s emissions drop will slow to a taper. If the U.K. is going to reach net-zero, action is needed elsewhere, and soon. Transport, for example, is now the biggest emissions sinner in the U.K. Yet four out of five targets used by the CCC to track the sector’s progress weren’t met, including new car CO2 emissions, electric car registrations and biofuel uptake.While this stalling on climate action is no doubt a symptom of a government distracted by Brexit, that’s no excuse. The U.K. is hosting the UN climate summit next year and if it’s serious about being a leader on the environment, it needs to make a success of it. Overshooting legally-binding carbon budgets doesn’t set a great example. You may not agree with their tactics, but it’s hard to argue that Extinction Rebellion should be rabble-rousing somewhere else.To contact the author of this story: Lara Williams at lwilliams218@bloomberg.netTo contact the editor responsible for this story: James Boxell at jboxell@bloomberg.netThis column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Lara Williams manages Bloomberg Opinion's social media channels.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinion©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


DUP will lobby lawmakers to vote against PM Johnson's deal - Wilson

Yahoo World News Feed - October 18, 2019 - 12:18am

Voting down Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal will open up better opportunities for the government and the Northern Irish party which supports him in government will be lobbying other lawmakers to rebel, its Brexit spokesman said. Sammy Wilson, a lawmaker for the Democratic Unionist Party, told BBC Radio that the party's 10 lawmakers in Westminster will vote against Johnson's deal when it comes before parliament in an extraordinary sitting on Saturday.


Trump: Turkey-Syria-Kurds face-off isn't America's fight

Yahoo World News Feed - October 16, 2019 - 10:18am

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that U.S. troops are "largely out" of a region of Syria where Turkish forces are attacking the Kurdish fighters who were America's allies in fighting the Islamic State group. Trump downplayed the crisis that followed his decision to pull out of Syria, which critics say amounted to giving Turkey a green light to invade Syria's northeast, where it has been attacking Kurdish fighters whom Turkey views as terrorists.


Brexiteers May Tolerate Boris Johnson’s Deal

Yahoo World News Feed - October 16, 2019 - 10:15am

(Bloomberg) -- Sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, follow us @Brexit and subscribe to our podcast.Democratic Unionist Party Leader Arlene Foster dismissed as “nonsense” a report it was close to dropping its opposition to Boris Johnson’s latest Brexit deal and opening the way to a historic agreement with European Union leaders this week.On Wednesday, RTE reported that the Northern Irish party had accepted the prime minister’s latest proposals, citing unidentified EU sources. Then, Foster tweeted:Johnson needs the DUP votes in London if he is to get his deal through Parliament. But the party has been opposed to the concessions the prime minister offered to get the EU‘s support for his proposed Brexit accord -- in particular putting a customs border in the Irish sea and diluting the Northern Ireland Assembly’s veto over the arrangements.Steve Baker, chairman of the European Research Group of pro-Brexit Tories, said the deal the prime minister is pursuing sounds “tolerable,” though added the group would wait for the legal text before making a final decision.Key DevelopmentsJohnson briefed his cabinet and briefly addressed his backbenchers in ParliamentEU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier is set to brief EU27 diplomats at 7 p.m. Brussels time.Johnson needs a deal approved this Saturday or he will be told to seek an extension; that will likely prompt a legal battle with the risk of a no-deal exitWill U.K. Parliament Back a Boris Johnson Brexit? We Do the MathBrexiteers May Tolerate Johnson Deal (4:45 p.m.)Boris Johnson briefed his cabinet and backbenchers from his Conservative Party on the progress of negotiations in Brussels in two short meetings, telling them work still needs to be done.Steve Baker, chairman of the ERG group of hardline Brexiteer Tory MPs, said “the deal sounds like it could well be tolerable” after Johnson spoke to rank-and-file lawmakers in an eight minute private meeting. “It’s not our job to be more unionist than the DUP. But we’re not going to delegate our decision,” he said in reference to the group’s concerns about customs arrangements for Northern Ireland.Johnson said “the summit is still shrouded in mist,” according to Baker’s account after he left the meeting. “Until there’s a legal text we’re not going to make a decision,” Baker added.Johnson had earlier told cabinet that there is a chance of a good deal but it’s not there yet, his spokesman James Slack told reporters.Legal Text Needed Tonight, EU Diplomat Says (4:30 p.m.)An EU diplomat told reporters in Brussels that if there’s no agreed legal text tonight, there’s no chance that a deal will be struck at the leaders’ summit on Thursday.What will happen in that case, whether it’s a new summit, will depend on the outcome of talks in the meantime, the diplomat said.All this is now a negotiation between London and Belfast, the diplomat said, adding that it’s a situation he finds “very boring.”DUP Criticizes Varadkar’s Consent Comments (4:05 p.m.)Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar’s comments on restoring the devolved assembly in Northern Ireland were an “unhelpful intervention” a DUP lawmaker said, in the latest sign of strained relations between the party and the Dublin government.Reviving the assembly in Stormont is “entirely a matter for the parties in Northern Ireland and the U.K. Government,” said Paul Givan, a DUP lawmaker in the currently inactive assembly. "The Irish Government has no role in this area."Earlier Varadkar said the assembly’s consent mechanism should be re-examined as part of efforts to revive the body (see 1:05 p.m.).Barnier’s Debrief Postponed Again (3:45 p.m.)In a sign that Brexit talks are going to the wire and that there’s still no conclusion, EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has again delayed his debrief to ambassadors from the bloc’s 27 remaining governments.Initially scheduled for 2 p.m. Brussels time, it was pushed back to 5 p.m. and now to 7 p.m. The plan is for Barnier to give the final overview of whether there’s a deal or not to take into Thursday’s summit.But there’s still too much uncertainty to give a conclusive assessment, officials said. The two negotiating teams remain locked away in the European Commission and are in contact with the most important EU capitals, particularly Dublin and London, where Boris Johnson’s cabinet has just been briefed on the latest.Pound Whipsawed (2:05 p.m.)The currency market hasn’t been this twitchy over Brexit since the aftermath of the referendum that set off the process in 2016. For the pound, today is all about volatility: The currency has swung between gains and losses as traders track every headline out of Brussels, London and Belfast. On Wednesday, sterling touched a five-month high as an end to the Brexit saga appeared to be in sight -- before paring those gains.Johnson to Visit Brussels? (2 p.m)The prime minister may travel to Brussels this evening if a deal is reached this afternoon, according to EU officials.Irish PM to Brief Party Leaders Today (1:45 p.m.)Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar will brief opposition party leaders later today on the state of the Brexit negotiations. That’s usually a sign of progress -- though he went on to tell lawmakers that a legal text had yet to be “stabilized.” In recent years, that sort of language has preceded the various accords that have been reached.DUP Accepts Latest Proposals on Consent: RTE (1:22 p.m.)Consent Needs to be Revisited, Irish PM Says (1:05 p.m.)In comments unlikely to calm the DUP, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the suspended Northern Ireland Assembly’s controversial consent mechanism should be re-examined as part of efforts to revive the body.Under current rules, a third of assembly members can effectively block a measure they don’t like, using the so-called petition of concern, which could theoretically allow the DUP to veto any measures designed to install a border in the Irish Sea as part of a Brexit deal.Sammy Wilson, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman today fired a warning over the issue, saying U.K. & EU negotiators “have no business interfering in the processes for consent as currently set out.”Speaking to lawmakers in Dublin, Varadkar said the device had been “used in a way that I don’t think was ever anticipated,” though any reform needs the assent of the region’s biggest parties.DUP’s Wilson Warns Over Consent (12:15 p.m.)DUP Brexit Spokesman Sammy Wilson says the Good Friday Agreement “requires cross community consent for all controversial issues” passing through Northern Ireland’s power-sharing Assembly.U.K. Wants N Ireland in Customs Territory (12 p.m.)Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay reiterated Johnson’s commitment to keeping Northern Ireland in the U.K. customs territory, but refused to be drawn on whether discussions in Brussels include customs checks between the province and the rest of the U.K.“It is essential that Northern Ireland is part of United Kingdom customs territory,” he said in a question and answer session with a panel of MPs. “Once we start to get into the details, that is an issue that is part of the negotiations.” He said “sensitivities” over negotiations with the EU meant he couldn’t talk further about the government’s plans.Barclay dodged a series of questions from the DUP’s Sammy Wilson, in which he was asked if the government would ensure “cross-community” consent for any agreement on the Irish border. That would effectively give a veto for the DUP, which Wilson told him would be in line with the agreement that ended violence in the province.“We have a clear commitment to find solutions compatible with the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” Barclay said.Second Summit Is Now Being Talked About (11:43 a.m.)One EU diplomat said that the deal seems to be falling apart, and that an extra summit close to the weekend is probably going to be needed. It’s not a scenario the U.K. side are willing to contemplate right now.Nevertheless, in Brussels it’s becoming a definite possibility because EU sees Johnson as legally bound to seek an extension. If he does, then an emergency summit become unavoidable from their point of view.One possibility is Oct. 28, a Monday, three days before the U.K. is scheduled to leave.Was EU Sounding Too Optimistic Last Night? (11:35 a.m.)A U.K. official said the tone coming out of the EU on the state of talks was too optimistic last night. By tonight, there will be a clearer picture of whether both sides have got a deal.There are bigger stumbling blocks than just the sales tax, specifically the future customs relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (and thus the EU), and how to handle Johnson’s plans to give the Northern Ireland Assembly a veto of over future regulatory alignment with the EU.Barclay on Extension Letter (11:20 a.m.)Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, who is still answering questions from MPs in Parliament, says he’s “not aware” of any plan for the U.K. to send a second letter to the EU in the event of no deal being reached.That’s after suggestions Johnson could send one letter to the EU on Saturday requesting an extension to comply with the Benn Act, followed by another to cancel the first.On Oct. 4 Johnson’s lawyers promised a Scottish Court that he will obey the law and request an extension from the EU, while also arguing that there’s nothing to stop the prime minister continuing to say he intends to leave on Oct. 31Emergency Summit Looming? (11:15 a.m.)It’s now too late for the Brexit deal to be formally approved by leaders at their summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday, an EU diplomat said. Leaders will want to wait for the House of Commons to vote on Saturday for any deal before they give a final yes, the diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions. That could mean an emergency summit before the end of the month.Level Playing Field: a Key Sticking Point (11.10 a.m.)One of the main sticking points, according to two officials with the deliberations is the so-called level-playing field -- the commitment of the British government that it won’t undercut the EU in areas such as taxation, state subsidies and environmental standards.This is a thorny issue that falls mostly in Political Declaration on the future relations between the two sides, rather than the exit agreement itself. However, reaching a deal on one without the other is impossible, as the two documents are seen as a package.Barnier Optimistic, But Three Roadblocks Key (10:56 a.m.)Barnier told EU Commissioners that he is optimistic a deal can be sealed today, RTE’s Europe editor Tony Connelly tweeted. But he says three problems remain:VAT: Sales tax has emerged as a last-minute roadblockConsent: The DUP is pushing for a tighter Stormont lockThe level-playing field provisionDUP return to Downing Street (10:54 a.m.)Barclay Rejects ‘Technical Extension’ Delay (10:40 a.m.)Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay was asked by MPs in Parliament if he would be happy for the U.K. to have a short, “technical” delay to the Oct. 31 exit day deadline to pass the legislation required for the country to leave the EU. “No,” Barclay replied. “It is important that we leave on the 31st October:”Second EU Summit Possible, Varadkar Says (10:35 a.m.)Another EU summit before the end of October is a “possibility” if it is needed to nail down a Brexit deal, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said. He said there is still time to get an agreement.Varadkar spoke to Johnson this morning and has been “in contact” with the European Commission, he said. While talks are making progress, some issues remain unresolved on the questions of how customs checks on goods crossing the EU-U.K. border will work, and the kind of say over the new arrangements that Northern Ireland’s politicians will be given.The Irish leader hopes a deal could be reached today, but “there is still more time” if not.U.K. Will Seek Extension if No Deal Struck (10:15 a.m.)U.K. Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told a parliamentary committee that Johnson will write a letter to the EU on Saturday if no deal has been agreed by then, in line with a new law. So far, Johnson has refused to say whether he would send the letter, determined to secure a deal.“I confirm the government will abide by what is set out in that letter,” Barclay told MPs.EU: Brexit Deal Impossible Unless U.K. Moves (10:01 a.m.)Brexit negotiations in Brussels have reached an impasse, with two EU officials saying that a deal is going to be impossible unless the U.K. government changes its position in the negotiations.The remaining issues cannot be resolved in the negotiating room unless Johnson’s government gives a new order to his team in Brussels to shift their red lines, one of the diplomats said.The EU believes Johnson is trying but struggling to get the DUP -- his Northern Irish allies -- to support the draft deal which has been under discussion in the talks in Brussels, the person said.DUP’s Wilson Warns Money Won’t Help (9:35 a.m.)Sammy Wilson, an MP for the Democratic Unionist Party, denied reports that DUP leader Arlene Foster discussed a cash payment for Northern Ireland with Johnson yesterday to help secure her support for the Brexit deal.“This is an issue of whether or not the union is weakened. If the union is weakened no amount of money will get us to accept the deal,” Wilson said in an interview.The party has previously said it would support a deal that didn’t put a border in the Irish Sea, treated Northern Ireland the same as rest of the U.K. in terms of customs arrangements, gave a veto to the Northern Irish assembly and avoided checks at the border.Conservatives Will Take Lead from DUP: Davis (9 a.m.)Former Brexit Secretary David Davis, a committed Brexit-backer, said that securing the support of the Democratic Unionist Party will be key to getting Conservative MPs to vote for any deal Johnson secures from Brussels.“Quite a lot of Tory MPs will take their line from the DUP,” Davis told BBC radio Wednesday. That’s despite the suggestion on Twitter of Tory MP Steve Baker late Tuesday that his group of pro-Brexit Tory MPs are “optimistic” they’ll be able to vote for a deal following a meeting with Johnson’s team.DUP Is Resisting a Deal, U.K. Official Says (8:30 a.m.)The Democratic Unionist Party is resisting the proposed divorce agreement and the U.K. side now thinks the chances of getting an agreement are low, according to a British official who spoke on condition of anonymity.If Johnson can get a legal text approved in Brussels, he will then need to persuade Britain’s Parliament to vote for it, and for that he wants the DUP on side.But the DUP is a “unionist” party, which means its members prize maintaining the economic and political unity of Northern Ireland with the rest of the U.K. above all else. And there are suggestions the deal Johnson is putting together will effectively split Northern Ireland from mainland Britain, with a new customs “border” for checking goods traveling between the two. That would be difficult for the DUP to swallow.Both the U.K. and the EU want to avoid the need for customs checks on goods crossing the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. In the past the DUP and the U.K. government have refused to contemplate a solution that involves a customs border between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.Lib Dems Demand Referendum on Any Deal (Earlier)Leader of the Liberal Democrats Jo Swinson said her party is pushing for a second referendum whatever deal Johnson brings back from Brussels. “We will back a referendum -- whether it’s on Boris Johnson’s deal, whether it’s on Theresa May’s deal -- because we think it’s the public that should be in charge,” Swinson told BBC radio on Wednesday.Her party has put down an amendment to government legislation for Tuesday calling for a referendum, although other attempts to force a second vote could come as soon as Saturday.Earlier:Brexit Talks Make Progress But Leave Johnson’s Key Allies UneasyCan Johnson Get a Deal Through Parliament? Silence Is Golden\--With assistance from Kitty Donaldson, Jessica Shankleman, Thomas Penny, Tim Ross, Peter Flanagan, Maria Tadeo and Nikos Chrysoloras.To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net;Dara Doyle in Dublin at ddoyle1@bloomberg.net;Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson at fjackson@bloomberg.net, Edward EvansFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


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