So Brexit is actually happening tomorrow.
Yup. Get your tea and crumpets ready because we're taking a stroll down memory lane. In June 2016, the UK voted 52% to 48% to leave the EU. But no one could agree on how exactly to make Brexit a reality, with contentious issues like Northern Ireland keeping things in a deadlock. But after UK PM Boris Johnson came into office last summer, the UK and EU eventually reached a deal. At 6pm ET tomorrow, the UK will stop being a member of the EU. But breakups are complicated.
There'll be an 11-month transition period where the UK and EU still have to hash out the details on their trade relationship, as well as issues like security and transportation. You know, the small stuff. Negotiations aren't expected to start until March, and the transition is slated to end on Dec 31.
Let's just say this: trade deals can take years to hammer out. But Johnson has said the transition period won't be extended beyond 2020. Meaning, if we hit New Year's Eve and the UK and EU drop the ball on negotiations, the UK could suddenly revert to World Trade Organization rules. Which would essentially be like a no-deal Brexit – something that lawmakers tried to avoid in the past.
For now, it doesn't look like much will change. The UK will still trade freely with the EU and follow its laws. And UK citizens will still have free movement around the bloc. The situation with Northern Ireland will still need to be worked out. But for now, it won't see much of an impact.
After more than three years of negotiations, the UK will officially be the first country to leave the EU after 47 years of membership. Tomorrow will no doubt be a historic day for the bloc. But it also opens a new chapter of uncertainty around issues that impact tens of millions of people.
This coronavirus. Today, the World Health Organization will meet once again to determine whether the pneumonia-like virus amounts to a global health emergency – something it had decided against doing last week. The outbreak has killed at least 170 people and infected more than 7,700 others. In China, coronavirus cases have now surpassed the number of SARS cases that erupted there during the deadly epidemic in the early 2000s.
World's response: Japan, Australia, and several other countries are evacuating citizens from the epicenter of the outbreak in central China. Yesterday, a flight carrying about 200 Americans landed in California, where they'll be screened and monitored for three days by health officials. And more evacuations are expected early next week.
Closed signs: Some companies are starting to pull away from China during all of this. Google temporarily shut down all offices in the country. Starbucks has closed more than half of its nearly 4,300 Chinese stores.
Travel alert: Several airlines (like United and American) have scaled back on flights to and from China. Other airlines (like British Airways and Lufthansa) have suspended those flights altogether.
Mississippi. Earlier this week, a 28-year-old inmate died, marking the 13th prison death in the state since late December. The majority of the deaths have happened at a prison in the northwestern part of the state, after unrest in one of the prison's violent units led to multiple stabbings. But there have also been reports of vermin, mold, and other health concerns there. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has since pledged to close that unit down.
A statewide issue: The state is undergoing a funding and staffing crisis, and the prisons' conditions are deteriorating. The Southern Poverty Law Center and other advocacy groups have called on the DOJ to investigate the state's prison system, accusing Mississippi of "deliberately and systematically" putting prisoners at risk.
Legal action: A recent lawsuit filed on behalf of more than two dozen inmates is also targeting the conditions of state prisons. It claims the prisons violate their Eighth Amendment rights around cruel and unusual punishment.
PETA. The animal rights org is calling for Punxsutawney Phil's retirement. It says groundhogs experience "great stress" in public (like on Groundhog Day) – and wants an AI groundhog instead. Phil of the future, is that you?
Yesterday, President Trump's impeachment trial entered a new phase as the Senate submitted questions, which are expected to wrap up today. Lawmakers on both sides got to ask questions, read out by Chief Justice John Roberts. Here's what was mentioned:
Quid pro quo: Trump's legal team said that if a president did something to get reelected, this kind of quid pro quo shouldn't lead to impeachment. The argument is that if Trump believes his reelection is what's best for the country, he could be acting in the public's interest.
Book controversy: A book manuscript by former national security adviser John Bolton reportedly claimed that Trump connected aid to Ukraine with investigations into Democrats, contradicting arguments by the president's defense team. Now the White House has threatened to block the release of Bolton's upcoming book, citing concerns over classified info.
What's on standby: The vote on whether to approve witnesses in the trial. That's expected to happen tomorrow. In the meantime, Republicans seem to be confident that they have the votes to keep witnesses from testifying. Important, because that means the trial could wrap up as soon as tomorrow.
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