Saturday, the 30th of September
It's difficult to downplay the importance of Britain's withdrawal from the European Union. Yet a cursory look at life in the United Kingdom might lead you to believe that it wasn't such a big deal after all: the buses are still running, the monarchy is still ruling and the NHS is still collapsing. 

Much of the initial hysteria, elation and perplexity has worn off. So what happens next? Beyond the theatrics of Boris v May it appears as though Whitehall is suspended in bureaucratic stasis. This week we'll dive into why the (second) biggest shock of 2016 may fizzle out.
Taking the sting out of Brexit.
The Labour Party held its annual conference (a rollicking, tense and at times exuberant affair) in Brighton this week. The message to the party faithful was simple: we are the government-in-waiting. The evergreen Jeremy Corbyn savaged the country's 'failed model of capitalism' and offered up traditional Labour remedies. It's the first time in decades that these views have been seriously considered (beyond Liverpool, Manchester and university pubs).

Corbyn would see the railways and utilities renationalised. Taxes would be raised in order to provide free education and affordable housing. But Corbyn's brand of socialism-lite is no more a panacea to Britain's woes than neo-liberalism was. There are many issues on which Labour can wedge Theresa May's government, yet one issue stood out: Brexit. The Labour Party will campaign on the promise to retain 'unimpeded' access to Europe's single market.

This will cause headaches at the upcoming Conservative Party summit. It will already be a strained affair: May's detractors continue to stoke discontent over her wavering commitment to a 'hard' Brexit. Many of them were galled by her admission that the Tories were 'not prepared' for the snap election that she called. Boris Johnson is gearing up for another tilt at the top job. Just this week he earned censure from his colleagues when he slipped the ministerial ranks to host a 'hard' Brexit event. 

The biggest problem for May (beyond chronic party room instability) is that half a year has elapsed since her government triggered Article 50 and progress in the negotiations have been piecemeal at best. March 2019 always looked to be an unrealistic deadline; now it seems absurd. The government has proposed a two-year transition period after 2019 although this has been ridiculed by European leaders. May's speech in Florence last week was intended to kick-start the stalled talks, although one stumbling block isn't going anywhere: money.

David Davis and Michel Barnier (Britain and the EU's chief negotiators) have made some progress on the issue of citizens' rights. It's a complex problem that has caused consternation on both sides of the Channel. But until Britain can put forward a mutually agreeable payment (the divorce bill) there will be little enthusiasm in Brussels to discuss the terms of trade in good faith. Barnier believes it could be months before this impasse is overcome. These are months that May doesn't have to put forward a figure that will undoubtedly be politically toxic.

In London, leaders are losing sleep over the shape of a future relationship with the EU. In Paris, Emmanuel Macron is embodying the ethos of 'the ever-closer union'. In a controversial speech, the political novice described Europe as 'too slow, too weak, too ineffective' and offered a plan to overhaul the EU. Macron's vision includes a shared budget, a joint military and a standardised taxation system. He also left the door open for Britain to rejoin the union at a later date, although it's doubtful that eurosceptics would be excited by an even more integrated European project.

Macron's speech has received mixed reviews. On one hand, Angela Merkel (fresh from a win at last weekend's German elections) offered cautious praise for further integration. Her support for a Eurozone finance minister will no doubt be curbed by some within her prospective ruling coalition. Others, like the Danish and Czech leaders, dismissed Macron's plan outright. Meanwhile, the question of further integration is a purely academic one for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. He's busy sending police into the streets to quash this weekend's Catalonian independence vote. 
North Korea is losing revenue at an alarming rate.
North Korea loses a lifeline - Chinese authorities have given all North Korean businesses operating in the country 120 days to close up shop for good. The ventures - particularly a vast network of restaurants - represent a significant source of revenue for the wayward hermit nation. It's a notable (and calculated) change in tone from Pyongyang's principal ally and protector. Much of the coverage has described the move as surprisingly acquiescent to American pressure.

But Beijing's decision is simply in line with the tranche of United Nations' sanctions that came about in response to this month's nuclear test. Chinese leaders face a challenging set of circumstances; the importance of appearing to be a constructive player in the international arena whilst ensuring the continuity of the North Korean regime as a stalking-horse for the West. As China moves to play a greater role in international institutions (as demonstrated by Xi's speech to Interpol this week) it will need to keep Pyongyang muzzled, but not too tightly. We'll find out a lot more at next months 19th National Congress of the Communist Party.
Nice one, humans.
Carbon sinks ruined - Conventional scientific wisdom holds that the dense tropical jungles of Africa, Asia and South America act as invaluable carbon sinks. The sheer amount (and biodiversity) of flora living in this global band traps more carbon dioxide than it releases - there are few places like them on earth. Not anymore. A study published in the venerable journal 'Science' on Thursday shows that the deforestation and degradation of rainforests in the tropics is so complete that they are now net emitters of carbon dioxide. 

Taken as a whole, the tropical rainforests now emit 425 teragrams of carbon each year; more than all of America's traffic annually. This is a staggering reversal: the rainforests of the world are broken. Surprisingly, one of the greatest contributors is degradation at ground level; selective clearing for agriculture and development that is hidden by the upper canopy.

Humans are solely responsible for this egregious development. In South America deforestation is accelerating. The worlds largest rainforest, the Amazon, is being taken apart each day by mining interests, loggers and soy bean farmers.
Trump has declared the NFL is 'going to hell' unless #takeaknee protests stop.
  1. Trump blasted sports stars for kneeling during anthem
  2. He unveiled sweeping changes to slash taxes
  3. And capped US refugee intake at an all-time low
  4. Another GOP healthcare bill collapsed
  5. Trump lifted impediments to Puerto Rico aid
  6. The private plane scandal widened
  7. Trump-backed Luther Strange lost in Alabama
  8. Trump railed against perceived bias on Facebook
  9. Mattis was greeted by a rocket attack in Kabul
  10. Outcries grew at Kushner using private email
About time.
Driving towards modernity - From next year, women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed to drive. It is a small, but noteworthy step in loosening the absurdly draconian grip that the kingdom's religious authorities have on females. Saudi Arabia is struggling to improve its international image, but perhaps more reforms of guardianship laws will help.

Going it solo - Opening solar farms is undeniably a good thing. However, the fossil-fuel bitter-enders continue to ask whether renewables can survive without government subsidies. We have an answer: yes. This week the Clayhill solar farm opened in the UK without a cent from the government. It will power 2,500 homes and has battery storage. Great!
Mali's woes will not go away.
UN deaths in Mali - Islamic militants have struck a convoy of peacekeepers in the restive north of the country, killing three and injuring five more. Years on from France's muscular intervention into its ex-colony the security situation is scarcely better. It's a part of the world that gets nowhere near enough attention.

Chicken dinner - Thinking of a roast chook tonight? If you live in the United Kingdom, please read this article first. It's one part of an investigation into the jaw-dropping practices and horrible conditions of the country's poultry industry. It's not good for human nor bird.
Your weekend long read... This is one to raise your blood pressure. This piece details the lengths that Coca-Cola will go to in order to profit off and control vital water supplies. Remember, this is a resource that we will fight wars over in the very near future.

Lastly, if you found this issue of The Weekly Wrap interesting, please take a moment to share it. It helps.