Development Debacle: Malpass for World Bank President

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/11/2019 09:38:00 AM
Alumni of long-gone Bear Stearns and global financial crisis denier circa 2007: Meet David Malpass.
The abrupt resignation of Jim Yong Kim as World Bank president has opened up a lot of old wounds, especially now in the Trump era. If you will recall, there was a big brouhaha over the United States still getting to nominate its president. In an arrangement that's a throwback to when Western countries dominated the global political economy, the US still gets the right to select the World Bank's leader, while the Europeans still do so for the IMF's leader. The Obama administration's choice of the departed Kim was meant to be a partial appeasement to developing countries wanting more say in a body whose activities do affect them. Sure, he was an American, but he was a Korean-American immigrant.

Let's just say that Trump is the least international and the most US-centric American leader in a long time. So, he's unsurprisingly scotched any attempts to appoint a non-white or non-American to lead the World Bank despite his suspicion of all multilateral institutions:
Kim’s abrupt resignation leaves Donald Trump with the opportunity to appoint a successor. He could turn to Bulgarian national Kristalina Georgieva, the bank’s chief executive, who will take over as interim president when Kim leaves. The much-respected official was a European commissioner and EU finance chief before moving to Washington.

Before Kim took over, the bank laid down criteria for appointing future presidents, which were designed to exclude officials with little experience of running large organisations or who lacked relevant experience, especially in the developing world. However, Trump is expected to use his effective power of veto to make sure a close adviser or a sympathetic political figure takes over.
So Trump is going ahead and contravening new World Bank presidential selection criteria by nominating someone, er, unfamiliar with running large international organizations and development work in David Malpass. This fellow is a proud America-firster like Trump:
Donald Trump confirmed his choice on Wednesday that the World Bank should be led by the US treasury official David Malpass, a Trump loyalist and critic of such multilateral institutions who has vowed to pursue “pro-growth” reforms at the global lender.

Trump’s nomination of Malpass, the treasury department’s top diplomat, is subject to a vote by the World Bank’s executive board and could draw challengers from some of the bank’s 188 other shareholding countries...

Malpass, treasury undersecretary for international affairs, has criticized the World Bank and other multilateral institutions for growing larger, and becoming more “intrusive” and “entrenched”, and targeted the bank for its continued lending to China, a country he sees as too wealthy for such aid.
Recall the last time an American president chose a controversial conservative figure to head the World Bank: George W. Bush selected the short-tenured Paul Wolfowitz, an architect of the ill-fated 2003 invasion of Iraq. Instead of blowing up other countries for no good reason, Malpass to his credit only failed to see how the Bush administration was blowing up the world economy. Malpass is a another conservative with extreme views, having been a chief economist at the ill-fated Bear Stearns who declared in so many words that there was no financial crisis brewing Stateside right before ti hit:
"Housing and debt markets are not that big a part of the US economy, or of job creation," Mr Malpass wrote before the impending economic crisis. "It's more likely the economy is sturdy and will grow solidly in coming months, and perhaps years."

The New York Times also criticised Mr Malpass for that and other Wall Street Journal articles, saying partisan bias towards Republican policy by economists had "unquestionably contributed to their forecast errors".
While it's true that other nominees may be put forward by other countries--especially developing ones--there is some doubt as to whether they would have meaningful chances at obtaining the World Bank's top job absent the support of the United States given its historical dominance of the institution. I also don't see much of a rallying cry to appoint a leader from the developing world this time. Perhaps we've become disenchanted with the whole process after what happened with Kim's victory under a far more progressive American president in Barack Obama.

Trump's worldview is prehistoric and his candidate is positively Neanderthal, but if everyone's fed up with the World Bank presidential selection process, it's going to be the same old story all over again.

Brexit or Not, London Loses Financial Centre Role

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 2/10/2019 04:24:00 PM
This place used to compete with New York as the world's financial capital. No more.
I used to snicker whenever CNBC used to announce that it was broadcasting from New York, the "financial capital of the world."  In many respects, London held that honor well into the 21st century despite the United Kingdom long, long ago ceding global influence to the United States. Last year, the Global Centre Financial Index (GCFI) ranked New York ever-so-slightly ahead of London, with the rest of the pack catching up on these two.

If the end of Rule Britannia did not end London's role as the world's capital for finance, the 2016 referendum aftermath's result to leave the European Union has put paid to that status for good. You see, most of haute finance's titans circa 2019 are not sticking around to see the end of the sorry Brexit melodrama. They've had it and are packing their bags for continental Europe which is, er, actually still part of the European Union:
The world’s biggest investment banks will not reverse plans to shift billions of dollars and thousands of jobs out of the UK even if Britain ends up staying in the European Union, senior bank executives and people with knowledge of the plans revealed to Financial News.

In a big blow to the City, at least eight of the largest investment banks in London, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan, have said they will shift a significant proportion of their operations to Europe irrespective of the outcome of Brexit.

The move would harm the City of London’s status as a global financial centre. Banks are already preparing to move hundreds of billions of dollars from London to the continent after Brexit. Deutsche Bank is reportedly set to shift €400bn from its balance sheet to Frankfurt, while JPMorgan will move €200bn to the German city.
The marginalization of London will continue whatever the endgame for Brexit since, having already decided, banks will not be coming back whatever happens. What's more, hiring will more often occur where they will be in the future, i.e., continental Europe:
Longer term, bank executives say Brexit will change the way they recruit staff. “London would have been the natural choice to hire new bankers. Now, after the investment we’ve made in Europe, if someone leaves in the UK or we want to recruit someone, we’re just as likely to base them in Frankfurt or Paris,” said one European chief executive of a US investment bank.

Banks are unlikely to move people back in the event Brexit is overturned, said Jenni Hibbert, global practice managing partner at Heidrick & Struggles Financial Services, the recruiter. “If they do, it won’t happen overnight”, given the cost and effort involved.

The damage inflicted in the Square Mile will be permanent, said another head of investment banking. “London as a financial centre will remain, but will be severely diminished.”
Times are changing. Just as Little Englanders carried the day during the Brexit referendum, so it's fitting that the UK is left with a Lilliputian financial services sector to match its citizens' backward- and inward-looking proclivities. Frankfurt, Paris, parts unknown are calling...

The EU Vehicle to Evade US Sanctions on Iran

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/31/2019 07:29:00 AM

Recently, the Trump administration's intelligence officials testified to Congress. In so doing, they contradicted the American president's beliefs and positions again and again. Being ever so shameless, Trump in so many words said these appointees of his were wrong and he was right on Syria, ISIS, North Korea, Iran, etc. For this post, US sanctions on Iran are of particular interest since--as far as the American spooks can tell--Iran has not violated the terms of JCPOA. That is, the agreement the US pulled out of in order to reimpose sanctions on Iran has been faithfully followed even after America, not Iran, reneged on the deal not to enrich uranium:
Europe has remained united in its support for the Iran nuclear deal. Germany, France and Britain maintain that Iran has complied with the deal’s conditions and that the agreement is the best way to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons. In the Worldwide Threat Assessment report that was presented by Coats and other intelligence officials, U.S. officials appear to agree with prior analyses by their European counterparts, writing that Iran is not attempting to build a nuclear weapon. That assessment raises questions over the basis for Trump’s claim in May that Iran was seeking nuclear weapons.
We've been waiting for the Europeans to do something about this matter. Since they view continuing Iranian compliance as something worth living up to in keeping JCPOA alive, they have been trying to figure out how to keep trading with Iran by shielding European firms from American sanctions. Henee the special purpose vehicle (SPV) they soon intend to put into operation. The SPV would buttress the EU's efforts to get European firms not to comply with US sanctions without consulting Brussels first:
Germany’s foreign minister says the European Union is on the verge of setting up an alternative channel to send money to Iran that would side-step U.S. sanctions against the Islamic republic. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Monday that Germany has been working notably with Britain and France but also other EU partners in recent months to set up the “special purpose vehicle.”

He says their aim is to ensure that “business not sanctioned by the U.S. can be upheld, and there is a suitable instrument for international payments.” The EU has struggled to keep alive the Iran nuclear since President Donald Trump pulled out of it last year. The bloc has already introduced measures to stop European companies from complying with the U.S. sanctions without authorization from Brussels.
The danger, as you may have surmised, is not really from Iran but from the Trump administration. It promises to hit European firms using the forthcoming SPV with fines and sanctions. Actually, part of the reason why the SPV's workings haven't been disclosed is to avoid Americans figuring out Europe's strategy to avoid sanctions on its firms ahead of time:
Senior EU officials have been saying for weeks that the financing mechanism would be up and running soon, but they have hesitated to provide details amid European concern that Trump would target the country where it is based and any others taking part.

The White House has been warning the Europeans that they could face stiff fines and penalties should they try to circumvent the sanctions.
So the situation is one where US intelligence officials effectively concede that their European counterparts are right and Trump is wrong on Iran's intentions and actions. Still, the Trump administration is threatening Europeans with penalties for dealing with a country living up to its obligations (Iran). It's a topsy-tury world we live in, indeed.

Rest of World Loves Good, Cheap Huawei Gear

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/29/2019 06:38:00 PM
At Huawei HQ, do they hatch nefarious data-stealing plans or try to increase customer value? Maybe a bit of both, even?
Here is a counterpoint to all the Huawei fear-mongering you read about nowadays. Encouraged by the United States to limit government purchases of Huawei networking gear, many of its allies have sharply curtailed their purchases due to security concerns. That is, Huawei is portrayed as a corporate spy working on behalf of the Community Party of China. Just today, the United States has criminally charged Huawei with stealing trade secrets from US telecoms giant T-Mobile. Fair or unfair, Huawei has acquired this reputation for becoming a conduit for PRC state interests.

However, you must also step back and consider: Why exactly is it that there are so many purchasers of Huawei gear? Aren't they delusional in even entertaining procurement of such equipment that compromises the security of their data networks? As Bloomberg points out, Huawei offers fine-quality equipment at prices many cash-strapped government buyers find attractive--something you cannot say about its Western competitors:
In the sparsely settled wildlands of eastern Oregon, Huawei Technologies Co. is hardly the big bad wolf of China that U.S. officials have depicted. It’s a lifeline to the 21st Century. China’s largest tech company makes high-quality networking gear that it sells to rural telecommunications operators for 20 percent to 30 percent less than its competitors do, says Joseph Franell, chief executive officer and general manager of Eastern Oregon Telecom in Hermiston, a watermelon-growing hub of 18,000 people. Huawei’s equipment has helped some two dozen U.S. telecom companies provide landlines, mobile services and high-speed data to many of the poorest and most remote areas in the country.
Further, even if Western governments are busy ridding themselves of existing Huawei gear that can allegedly be used for Chinese sleuthing, buyers in other countries have not been deterred from buying gear that is not only of good quality but also inexpensive:
Through it all, Huawei has prospered. The company garners about half its annual revenue of $92 billion outside China, led by Europe, the Middle East and Africa, where cutting-edge technology at affordable prices has endeared the Chinese company to budget-strapped purchasers.
Even in Huawei is not found complicit in spying for the Chinese government at the current time, critics say that its products should not be installed in security-sensitive applications since the company is legally obliged to act in the interests of the PRC. Given Huawei's advantage in 5G equipment that will be used in more applications for daily life, the potential opportunities for PRC-led surveillance via Huawei gear are supposedly plentiful:
The crux of the [Trump] administration’s argument is that Huawei couldn’t say no to demands from China’s government, even if it wanted to. China’s National Intelligence Law of 2017 requires all Chinese companies and citizens to "assist in and cooperate in national intelligence work" if requested. Whether Huawei or any of its employees have done so in the past is now incidental, China hawks argue, given Huawei’s lead in developing 5G technologies for the future.
I am inclined to think that despite bans the United States and its allies have instituted in installing Huawei networking gear in potentially security-sensitive applications, these are counterbalanced by the rest of the world who do not really have sensitive information the Chinese would find value in acquiring surreptitiously.That is, data security takes a back seat as a concern.

5G or not, there are enduring advantages to being both a low-cost and high-quality producer.

Anticipating Brexit, UK Warehouses Overflow

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/23/2019 03:34:00 PM
The battle of Britain...among companies seeking more warehouse space pre-Brexit
If and when Brexit--of the soft, hard, or somewhere-in-between variety--finally happens, Britons are trying to anticipate the gumming up of intra-European trade by stockpiling goods in the meantime. Knowing trucks ("lorries" the English call them), ships, and planes may find loading and unloading cargoes becoming very cumbersome when the UK is no longer part of the EU and national customs procedures are reintroduced after so many decades on European goods, some folks are stocking up on imports already to prevent being stuck in a likely post-Brexit logjam:
Three-quarters of UK warehouse owners say their space is full to capacity and storage costs have soared by up to 25% in the past three months after a surge in Brexit-related inquiries. The UK Warehousing Association (UKWA), whose 750 members have more than 9.3m sq metres (100m sq ft) of space nationwide, said there was a shortage of space close to major cities for stockpiling goods in case of holdups at ports after a no-deal exit from the EU.

A survey of UKWA members from across the country last month found 85% had received Brexit-related inquiries. About 75% were unable to take on more business from new customers.
Actually, UK warehouse space has already become dearer with the growing share of e-commerce in the retail industry. Arguably, Brexit is only exacerbating this trend as Europeans working in the logistics industry head home in anticipation of losing their UK work permits:
Peter Ward, the UKWA chief executive, said: “We are facing a perfect storm in the warehousing and logistics industry.” He said the prospect of a no-deal Brexit had ramped up demand at a time when few developers had been building warehouse space without confirmed tenants because urban land was being prioritised for homebuilding. At the same time demand for space was rising from online retailers while warehouses faced a “severe labour and skills shortage” as workers from eastern Europe headed home after the Brexit vote.
Aside from white nationalists, it boggles the mind why anyone would wish for Brexit when such an event likely sets the UK back decades in terms of commercial competitiveness and accessibility to the wider world. Little Englanders they are, indeed.

Commie Corbyn: Better for UK’s EU Remainers?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/21/2019 04:22:00 PM
Comrade Corbyn is the opposition leader, yet he's reluctant to call for the second referendum other Labourites desire. Why?
Since we are starting a new academic semester, I am beginning with the basic theoretical perspectives grounding the study of international political economy--liberalism, mercantilism (economic realism) and Marxism. Arguably, few IPE topics loom larger nowadays than the United Kingdom's impending exit from the European Union: Why would such a wealthy country even think of leaving the world's most vaunted economic integration project? Alas, it seems even in the UK in 2019, us pro-European integration voices must deal with straight-up Marxists in the so-called "opposition" to Teresa May's Brexit plans. 

Recent ructions in British politics show how not much has changed from 2016. Hardline Brexiteers remain so, while Remainers have hardly changed their stripes. Most in the opposition party, Labour, are of the latter sort. Unfortunately for their lot, nobody has really stepped up to challenge the mantle of party leadership from Jeremy Corbyn. If Tony Blair represented New Labour's business-friendly liberal turn, I am afraid there is not much to be said about Corbyn. He is Ye Old[e] Labour--prehistoric almost--a remnant from a time when the party used to sing "The Red Flag" at the end of party conferences:
While a large majority of party members, according to polling, want Corbyn to actively seek a new referendum, the Labour leader has previously said it is more likely he would push to take the UK out of Europe with a different deal.
I am pretty sure Corbyn also knows lyrics to "The Internationale" by heart, but I digress...
Asked what he would want to deliver on Brexit if there were an election and he became prime minister, Corbyn said: ”At the very minimum, a customs arrangement with the European Union that gives us a say of what goes on but also avoids the whole issue of the problems of Northern Ireland, which this deal does.”

Corbyn said: “What I’m saying is we’re campaigning for a country that is brought together by investment,” adding that people were “very, very angry about the way they’ve been treated in their different communities around the country”. Pressed on whether he was campaigning to leave, Corbyn added: “We’re campaigning for a customs union.”

Asked later whether Labour would push for a second referendum in the absence of a general election, Corbyn said: “We’re then into that consideration at that point. My own view is that I would rather get a negotiated deal now if we can, to stop the danger of a no-deal exit from the EU on 29 March which would be catastrophic for industry, catastrophic for trade.”
My belief is that Corbyn makes some of the expected noises about jobs, investment and so on to at least appear mainstream That is, it's not really Brexit per se he's concerned about but its form in rhetoric. In his heart of hearts, though, I wouldn't be surprised if he's an orthodox Marxist: the EU is a neoliberal project usurping the sovereignty of European nations, not for the benefit of faceless Eurocrats like Brexiteers believe, but rather the interests of global capital.

There is only one real way to end this EU exploitation of the British for true Marxists, and so Corbyn is decidedly out of touch with his Labour colleagues pressing for a second referendum that would likely result in the UK remaining in the EU (which a true Communist would abhor). Ultimately, there is no better explanation for the evasions Corbyn makes as to why he isn't on board with calling for a second referendum like so many in Labour. Although his rationale may differ, like the Brexiteers he really does prefer the UK to be out of the EU.

How to work around the opposition leader being a barely concealed Brexiteer is no small problem for Remainers to solve.

What Would Jesus Do About Brexit?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/14/2019 02:30:00 PM
The IPE Zone is a fan of arch-Remainer and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
While studying and working in the UK all those pre-Brexit years ago, I was amused by their government placing 26 Church of England clergy in the House of Lords. (Formally, they are the Lords Spiritual instead of the more political Lords Temporal who are everyone else.) In this supposedly secular day and age, the British are unique that way, as well as in cautioning against having a Catholic prime minister to guard against the depredations of popery and other Vatican-sourced foreign intervention. Little did I know that this nominally "ceremonial" political power granted to religious authorities may actually have some bearing...as it does now, even if it's limited.

You see, the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (the British pope, if you will), is an outspoken champion of EU membership for the UK. It makes this Catholic regard the Anglican Church more positively. Further, he is on firm economic and therefore ethical ground in reiterating that the least well-off are expected to be those worst affected by Brexit:
The archbishop of Canterbury has said a no-deal Brexit would hit the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK. Justin Welby also said he was praying for Theresa May and other politicians at the start of what is expected to be one of the most tumultuous weeks in recent parliamentary history. Last week, Welby said in the House of Lords that a no-deal Brexit would be “not only a political and practical failure, but a moral one,” and a second referendum may be needed to avoid it.
The impact on the most vulnerable is of greatest concern for the Anglicans, as it should be for a religious order:
He repeated his concerns in an interview with Christian website Premier, saying: “The burden of proof is on those that are arguing for no deal, to show that it will not harm the poorest and most vulnerable … How we care about them and how our politics affects them is a deeply moral issue.” He added: “Politicians have one of the hardest jobs in the world. It is deeply difficult, and we need to pray for them. It is unbelievably difficult.
It's too bad that, well, hardly anyone attends religious services in the UK anymore, least of all the Anglican Church's. So much for the moral suasion bit if you were hoping for that. Still, membership in the House of Lords may add further impetus to the current uprising in the House of Commons to avoid a hard Brexit. After all, the upper house did help ensure that Parliament has a say in the final form of whatever exit the UK makes from the European Union.

Remainers, aren't you actually glad that the UK is alone in the world aside from Iran in reserving places in the legislature for unelected clergy? It's too bad for the secularists, but I think any intervention--even of the divine sort--is welcome at this point to scuttle this Brexit folly at least for a generation if willed by forces on heaven and earth.

PRC's Belt-Road Initiative: Masterplan or Boondoggle?

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/13/2019 07:36:00 PM
Bungling belies accusations of Chinese plans for regional / world transport domination.

There is some dispute as to whether China's plans to connect the Asia-Pacific region and beyond with PRC-contributed infrastructure is a grand hegemonic plan or just a poorly-thought -and -executed one. American Vice-President Mike Pence sees sinister intent in describing it as a debt trap intended to tie poor countries to China in servitude via "dangerous debt diplomacy China has been engaging in in the region." That version of events goes something like this:
The common perception is that President Xi Jinping’s flagship foreign policy initiative is an ambitious program deploying trillions of dollars on necessary infrastructure in emerging Asian and African countries where Western investors lack the animal spirits to tread.

A variant of this view suggests a greater level of Machiavellian foresight. By getting emerging-economy governments caught in debt traps when unviable projects like Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port go belly-up, China is methodically assembling a network of client governments in hock to Beijing and advancing its military ambitions.
But then again, it would be unwise to listen solely to the country most at risk of losing influence in Asia through Chinese infrastructure initiatives. Instead of the grand conspiracy, how about countries being loaned to becoming unable to pay China back for its help in building infrastructure simply because the initiative is half-baked instead of some malicious intent on the part of the Chinese?
Here’s a better argument for what Belt and Road is really about. Despite Xi’s close association with it, the initiative isn’t ultimately a connected master plan for Chinese global ascendancy. Instead, it’s better looked at as a somewhat chaotic branding and franchising exercise, a way for the country’s numerous provincial officials and state-owned companies to slap a presidential seal of approval on whatever project they’re seeking to pursue.

“Far from strictly following Beijing’s grand designs, much of the Belt and Road Initiative’s activity to date looks more scattered and opportunistic,” Jonathan Hillman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, wrote in an analysis last year.
To support this line of argument, consider Chinese involvement with the now-infamous Malaysian 1MDB. It seems the Chinese don't want to be associated with that fiasco, especially now that its main benefactor--former PM Najib Razak--has been disgraced:
Chinese officials offered to help bail out state-owned 1Malaysia Development Bhd., kill off investigations into alleged corruption at the fund, and spy on journalists looking into it in exchange for stakes in Belt-and-Road railway and pipeline projects in Malaysia, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. If proven, that would offer the clearest link yet between the 1MDB scandal and Belt and Road, which is still seen by many as a more effective rival to multilateral investors such as the currently leaderless World Bank and Asian Development Bank. China has denied that money in the program was used to help bail out 1MDB.
So it cannot be a grand plan if it's all rather improvised--and not in a good way: 
The [Wall Street] Journal’s reporting suggests a scheme cooked up on the fly, with its key planks initially proposed by Malaysian rather than Chinese officials. By building the railway at a vastly inflated cost, Chinese state companies would be able to get their hands on spare cash and in return assume some of 1MDB’s debts.

If Malaysia’s Belt and Road projects were all part of a grand strategy hatched by China, the execution was incompetent. According to the Journal, former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak did hold talks with Beijing about granting berthing rights to Chinese naval vessels – but the discussion never bore fruit. Then Najib was voted out of office last year, with his successor Mahathir Mohamad seeking to cancel or renegotiate projects he’s labelled a “new version of colonialism.”
OK, so maybe the Belt-Road Initiative is not entirely a fiasco at this point, but it certainly seems to be needing some direction since those China intended to court are increasingly becoming disillusioned:
Meanwhile, far from binding governments closer to Beijing, its investments in Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have fueled backlashes that brought China-skeptical governments to power.

UK Parliament Revolts Against Hard Brexit

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 1/09/2019 08:07:00 PM
A true British patriot recognizes the UK's geographic location on a certain continent.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May is a difficult one to pin down. While she was home minister for David Cameron (remember him?) during the run-up to the ill-fated 2016 Brexit vote, she decided to support Cameron's position to remain in the EU. After replacing him, though, she became famous for the pithy statement that "Brexit means Brexit." To be fair, she is stuck between an EU unwilling to make many compromises lest others see that they can leave the EU and still benefit from many of the privileges of membership and hardline Brexit elements in her party.

Still, it seems a revolt is brewing among nearly everyone else not as prone to suicidal behavior. Like a moth to the flame. The past two days have witnesses a cross-party revolt against crashing out of the EU with no preferential agreements. Yesterday, opposition stalwart Yvette Cooper's motion to deny May's government of taxation powers in the event a Brexit deal is not agreed to. Instead, parliament must be consulted:
Theresa May's no-deal Brexit preparations suffered a blow after MPs defeated the Government in the Commons. Labour former minister Yvette Cooper tabled an amendment to the Budget-enacting Finance (No. 3) Bill which attracted support from Tory rebels. Her proposal aims to restrict the Government's freedom to use the Bill to make tax changes linked to a no-deal Brexit without the "explicit consent" of Parliament. It was supported by 303 votes to 296, a majority of seven.

In a statement outside the Commons, [Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn] said the vote in support of the amendment was "an important step to prevent a no-deal Brexit". He said: "It shows that there is no majority in Parliament, the Cabinet or the country for crashing out of the EU without an agreement. That is why we are taking every opportunity possible in Parliament to prevent no deal.
I am no fan of the old-school Labour (read: pre-Third Way, unabashed socialist) leader Jeremy Corbyn, but it appears he is, for now, an ally in the effort to stop a hard Brexit--as is anyone else willing to vote it down at this point.

Today we had a second round of good news (if you're anti-Brexit, that is). The half-baked deal May came away with from meeting with her EU counterparts is likely going to voted down next week. In that event, the cross-party rebellion is now forcing the government to come up with a "Plan B" within 3 days instead of 21 days:
Rebel Conservative MPs have joined forces with Labour to inflict a fresh blow on Theresa May's government in a Commons Brexit vote. It means the government will have to come up with revised plans within three days if Mrs May's EU withdrawal deal is rejected by MPs next week.

It could also open the door to alternatives, such as a referendum. No 10 said Mrs May's deal was in the national interest but if MPs disagreed, the government would "respond quickly".
To be fair once more, I think that a three-day timetable to come up with a "Plan B" is unrealistic. That said, having exhausted nearly all other options, pro-Europeans among us may finally get what we've wanted all this time--a second referendum. The harrowing experience of the post-Brexit vote era should have taught sensible Britons that only worse in store if it finally pushes through. Polling data indicates "Remain" would win this time 46%-39%, and a positive outcome should put a stop to this nonsense for awhile.

Props to Speaker John Bercow for allowing this vote to happen at the potential cost of his speakership. Once more, remaining is really on the table. 

Thanks to Immigration, Bet on Canada's Future

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 1/03/2019 02:59:00 PM
Skilled migrants are driving Canada's G7-leading population growth.
Back to our coverage of international higher education in the new year: I've featured how the United States is becoming a non-destination for international students, mainly for the reason that the Trump administration is limiting their prospects for future post-educational work in the United States due to ultra-nationalist / racist immigration policies. Hard as it is for some Yanquis to understand, though, the world of higher education is much broader than the United States. There is a bona fide winner in this story of American educational and demographic decline as result of a failure to attract international talent given falling birth rates at home--Canada.

It is not hard to make the argument that many of those who would have otherwise studied in the US have gone to Canada instead due to Trump's blatantly racist immigration policies:
[Ayesha] Chokhani had her pick of elite schools. She turned down Cornell and Duke in the U.S. Her reasons were clear: The anti-immigrant rhetoric from the Trump administration made her nervous. And Canada had an additional draw: She can stay up to three years after she graduates and doesn’t need a job offer to apply for a work permit. “I wanted to be sure that wherever I go to study, I have the opportunity to stay and work for a bit,” she says.
The numbers don't lie. Canada is not only attracting international students but is also hoping that more than a few remain to deal with its shortfalls in domestic birth rates and the usual need to remain competitive in the modern world economy:
In August, there were about 570,000 international students in Canada, a 60 percent jump from three years ago. That surge is helping power the biggest increase in international immigration in more than a century. The country took in 425,000 people in the 12 months through September, boosting population growth to a three-decade high of 1.4 percent, the fastest pace in the Group of Seven club of industrialized nations.

Canada’s immigration system has long targeted the highly skilled. More than 65 percent of foreign-born adults had a post-secondary degree in 2017, the highest share tracked by members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “We are the biggest talent poachers in the OECD,” says Stéfane Marion, chief economist of the National Bank of Canada. As a result, he says, the country is better equipped to deal with globalization and technological change—“it’s a massive, massive advantage.”
To be sure, there are xenophobic political parties in the Canadian polity. However, the significant difference is that while they constitute a fringe minority in Canada, they are the ruling Republican Party in the United States thanks to Trump. 

Make no mistake: American decline and Trumpian xenophobia go hand in hand. Instead of evaluating people based on what they can get done, you do so based on irrelevant criteria like the color of their skin. Ultimately, it's America's loss for pandering to such racism.