🌍 The EU and UK reach a new deal on Northern Ireland


🌍 The EU and UK reach a new deal on Northern Ireland

Plus: South Africa placed on financial watchdog list

Hi there Intriguer. A tiny home in the Brazilian favela of Belo Horizonte has won ArchDaily’s prestigious international ‘House of the Year‘ award. Built with common materials found in the favela, it was designed to maximise natural light. We admire how the proud bachelor owner also uses his unique dwelling to throw banging parties: “We barely have 66 square metres, but I’ve had parties here with close to 200 people.”

Today’s edition is a 4.9 min read:

  • 🇬🇧 The UK and EU (potentially) figure out Northern Ireland.
  • 🇿🇦 South Africa placed on financial watchdog ‘gray list’.
  • ➕ Plus: Turbocharging the solar transition, how the papers are covering Nigeria’s election delays, and some intriguing insights from the son of Iran’s last shah.

– VC & EP

🗺️ AROUND THE WORLD
  1. 🇳🇵 Nepal: The Communist Party has left Nepal’s ruling coalition after the Prime Minister declined to support its presidential candidate. If the PM loses an upcoming no-confidence vote, Nepal will form its 12th government since becoming a republic in 2008.
  2. 🇧🇾 Belarus: Anti-Russian partisans in Belarus have destroyed a Russian surveillance plane at an air base near the capital, Minsk. The attack has raised concerns that Belarus, whose pro-Russia president is currently in China for talks, might enter the Russo-Ukraine War.
  3. 🇲🇾 Malaysia: Two Abu Dhabi-based firms will pay the Malaysian government $1.8B for their role in a years-long corruption scandal known as 1MDB. Investigators say the firms knowingly helped former PM Najib Razak and others embezzle taxpayer dollars.
  4. 🇸🇻 El Salvador: 2,000 inmates have been transferred to El Salvador’s new “megaprison“, which has a claimed capacity of 40,000 people. Some 60,000 have been arrested for suspected gang ties since El Salvador entered a state of emergency last March.
  5. 🇸🇾 Syria: Representatives from several Arab countries, including Jordan, Egypt, and the UAE, met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on Sunday. Arab governments are beginning to re-engage with Syria after more than a decade without formal ties.
🇬🇧 UNITED KINGDOM | BREXIT

The UK and EU took inspiration from the humble stoplight to resolve their customs battle.

UK and EU might have stepped over one of Brexit’s final stumbling blocks

Briefly: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak struck a deal with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday (27 February) to break a years-long deadlock over Northern Ireland (NI).

A little background: The Republic of Ireland is part of the EU, while NI is part of the UK. They share an island (called Ireland). Some on the island (up north) are proudly British. Others are proudly Irish. Some are proudly both. And everyone was part of the EU… until Brexit.

The UK then signed a deal with the EU known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, to avoid dividing the island with polarising EU-UK border checks. Until now, this meant EU officials instead checked goods on ships passing between the British mainland and NI.

However, pro-British voices on the island (aka ‘unionists’) didn’t like the way this separated them from the British mainland, and instead wanted a ‘hard’ EU/UK land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Pro-Irish voices (aka ‘nationalists’) oppose dividing the island like this: Ireland hasn’t had a land border since the Good Friday Agreement ended decades of sectarian violence in 1998.

The Windsor Framework, announced outside Windsor Castle on Monday, attempts to resolve all this. It allows NI to be in both the UK and EU markets by creating:

  • 🟢 A “green lane” to eliminate the customs border for British goods destined for NI, and
  • 🔴 A “red lane” to preserve the customs border for British goods destined for the Republic of Ireland.

Intrigue’s take: Brexit is the ultimate political quicksand, helping drag several of Sunak’s predecessors to their demise. Many pro-Brexit lawmakers in Sunak’s own party (plus pro-British lawmakers in NI) oppose this latest deal, and have promised to vote against it when given the opportunity. Something tells us this isn’t the last we’ll hear of Brexit 😒

Also worth noting: 

📰 GLOBAL PERSPECTIVES

How different newspapers covered: The election delays in Nigeria.

Sponsored by The Assist

The Assist is a free, 4x weekly newsletter that makes becoming a better professional actually enjoyable.

Level up today.
🇿🇦 SOUTH AFRICA | FINANCE

Money laundering is easier in some places than others. Via Giphy..

South Africa placed on money laundering ‘gray list’

Briefly: The Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a global financial crimes watchdog, placed South Africa (and Nigeria) on its money laundering ‘gray list’ last Friday (24 February).

Like getting put on Santa’s naughty list, a FATF listing is a serious reputational blow. It also means more scrutiny and costs for South African banks, making it tougher to do business and invest in the country.

South Africa’s rand fell against the US dollar as investors digested the news. Meanwhile, the South African government pledged to address FATF’s concerns and strengthen its regulations to fight money laundering and terrorism financing.

Intrigue’s take: Unemployment in South Africa is now around 34% (ten times the US rate). Its economy is actually smaller than it was a decade ago. So South Africa needed this FATF listing like Grey’s Anatomy needed a 19th season.

Also worth noting: 

  • The OECD is forecasting South Africa’s economy will grow 1.1% in 2023 and 1.6% next year.
  • Last year, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was accused of covering up the theft of $4M in undisclosed foreign currency he kept hidden in a sofa.
📊 CHART OF THE DAY

Credits: Financial Times

🎵 Here comes the sun, doo-doo-doo-doo…🎵

Solar power is set to overtake all other power sources by 2027 according to the International Energy Agency. New solar photovoltaic capacity will account for 60% of all new power installations in the next five years.

Last year’s energy crunch, ambitious climate goals, and generous US and EU green subsidies are all behind the boom. But a core driver is cost: solar costs have dropped 99% over the past four decades, including an 89% drop from 2009 through 2019 alone.

Geopolitically, this is excellent news for China, which controls over 80% of global solar panel manufacturing. It’s also great news for Yuma, Arizona, the world’s sunniest city (which logs 4,015 average annual sunshine hours), but less so for Totoró, Colombia (whose residents get just 637 hours of sunshine per year).

👀 EXTRA INTRIGUE

We’re very online, so you don’t have to be. 

🗳️ POLL TIME!

Will the new Northern Ireland deal stand the test of time?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.

Yesterday’s poll: How confident are you that a new President can fix Nigeria’s problems?

⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 😀 100% (2%)

🟨⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️⬜️ 😊 75% (7%)

🟨🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️ 🤔 50% (27%)

🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩🟩 😅 25% (36%)

🟨🟨🟨🟨⬜️⬜️ 🤭 0% (29%)

Your two cents:

  • 😅  G.F: “I think we give presidents a bit too much credit. One man, no matter the position, won’t be able to fix all of the problems Nigeria faces alone.”
  • 🤔  H.L: “The next president has an insurmountable task ahead of him but some of the solutions are rather straightforward. It’s only a question of political will.”
Latest Author Articles
Intrigue’s 2024 Geopolitical Bingo Card

Before we get back into the swing of things next week, allow us to present the Intrigue 2024 Geopolitical Bingo Card. Basically, we’ve put together 24 predictions for the coming year – some serious, others not.

5 January, 2024
Intrigue’s 2023 in Review

1. Superpower relations The curious case of the Chinese spy balloon It’s not like US-China relations were good before Billings, Montana native Chase Doak spotted a 200-foot-tall object drifting in the sky one sunny February morning… but his discovery certainly made them worse. China first denied it was a balloon meant for spying but somewhat undermined those […]

17 December, 2023
A COP dark side?

We’ve worked at plenty of global summits, including in our former lives as diplomats. They’re exhilarating, frustrating, surreal, and essential parts of how our world works. But they have a dark side, too. Trusted friends have passed us some information on one such dark side now playing out in the margins of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai: sex trafficking.

8 December, 2023
The run-up to COP… 31?

As the COP28 climate talks kick off in Dubai later this month, there are two intriguing tussles playing out for the right to run COP31 in 2026.

17 November, 2023