A mess of Brexit. British lawmakers voted yesterday overwhelmingly in favor to ask Brussels for an extension for the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, a mere 15 days before the divorce was set to take place. It was the U.K.’s third major Brexit vote in as many days. Parliament (again) rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed withdrawal agreement on Tuesday, and then voted against leaving the bloc without a deal in place. On Thursday, Parliament also rejected a measure calling for a second Brexit referendum, and narrowly defeated a move to wrest control of the Brexit process from the prime minister. The delay could last as long as a year, depending on whether Parliament can agree on a plan before May heads to Brussels next week, according to the prime minister. The EU will presumably go along with the extension; it doesn’t want a “no-deal” Brexit any more than the U.K. does, even if it’s not exactly happy with being held in limbo. But it’s difficult to see what can be done to resolve the impasse in London anytime soon without a major shakeup in the government.
Rocket fire in Israel. Two rockets were fired from Gaza into Tel Aviv late Thursday night – the first of their kind since Israel and Hamas went to war in 2014. No casualties or property damage were reported. Three more rockets were fired early Friday morning at southern Israel. Hamas said it’s not responsible for the attacks. Israel said it’s unsure who launched the rockets, but per its recent policy, said it’s holding Hamas responsible for the attacks anyway. And it has retaliated in kind. Israel Defense Forces struck some 100 targets in Gaza overnight, before a cease-fire took effect this morning, according to Egyptian mediators. (The same mediators said the heads of Palestinian factions were surprised by the launch.) The IDF later said that it believed the rockets were fired by mistake while undergoing maintenance work. Cooler heads appear to be prevailing this time around, but underlying dynamics mean the possibility of war in the not-so-distant future can’t be ignored.
A business-friendly face in China. On Friday, the National People’s Congress – China’s rubber stamp legislature – approved a long-awaited new law on foreign investment meant to ease pressures on foreign firms that operate in China to hand over proprietary technology to Chinese joint venture partners – a major U.S. point of contention in the ongoing trade talks. So far, foreign firms are skeptical. The U.S. and European chambers of commerce in China, for example, criticized the law as vague, adding that it lacked protections such as those intended to stop leaks of sensitive information about foreign firms to local competitors by Chinese regulators. (In any case, law in China is only as meaningful as authorities’ willingness to enforce it.) Meanwhile, Beijing is moving to make life easier for China’s own private firms. The Finance Ministry announced it would take more steps to reduce taxes, and remove obstacles to financing to boost the finance sector. And the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission announced it would allow banks to hold a greater amount of non-performing small business loans on their books — a move intended to ease a private sector credit crunch that’s posing one of the biggest risks to the Chinese economy.
- At least 49 people were killed in a terrorist attack by white nationalists on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
- The U.S. is planning to designate Brazil as its 17th major non-NATO ally during President Jair Bolsonaro’s visit to the White House next week, according to unnamed Brazilian officials.
- North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui said Pyongyang is considering suspending nuclear talks with U.S. and ending its suspension of missile and nuclear tests.
- Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan denied reports that the U.S. is encouraging Japan, Germany and other allies to pay the full cost of hosting U.S. troops, plus a 50 percent premium.
- The European Union placed travel bans and asset freezes on eight additional Russians allegedly involved with last year’s stand-off with Ukraine in the Sea of Azov.
- Iran is in talks with Syria to take over the country’s main commercial port of Latakia, according to The Times.