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EU Leaders Meet as Coronavirus Cases Surge Across the Bloc

An EU-U.K. trade deal isn't likely before Boris Johnson’s Oct. 15 deadline. What comes next?

By , the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrive for a roundtable meeting on the second day of a European Union (EU) summit on October 2, 2020.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen arrive for a roundtable meeting on the second day of a European Union (EU) summit on October 2, 2020. John Thys / AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: European leaders meet today in Brussels for a two-day summit, U.S. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden host competing town hall meetings, and Thailand cracks down on dissent with an emergency decree.

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Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: European leaders meet today in Brussels for a two-day summit, U.S. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden host competing town hall meetings, and Thailand cracks down on dissent with an emergency decree.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.


EU Leaders Meet on Trade Deal as Coronavirus Surges

The leaders of the 27 European Union member states meet today in Brussels to begin a two-day summit aimed at presenting a united front in trade talks with former member Great Britain as well as aligning on the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and Africa policy.

Previously billed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the “deadline” for a deal to be reached between the two sides, today’s summit is unlikely to yield a concrete outcome. A draft document from EU leaders, seen by Reuters, says that progress on trade negotiations is “still not sufficient.”

The deal’s not dead. Following a phone call with Johnson last night, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made clear that the deal was not yet dead. “The EU is working on a deal, but not at any price. Conditions must be right, on fisheries, level-playing field and governance,” she tweeted. “Still a lot of work ahead of us,” she added.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is confident a deal will eventually materialize, even if it takes until November to hammer out. “My experience is that sometimes in the last moment you will find a solution,” he told Bloomberg.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Joseph de Weck explains why the focus on a deal might miss the bigger picture. “Regardless of the negotiations’ outcome, the U.K. is already headed for a ‘hard Brexit,’ meaning a sharp break in relations with the EU. No matter what, the British and European economies are in for a painful decoupling,” he writes.

Europe’s second wave. With coronavirus cases again surging across the European Union, today’s summit could be the last in-person meeting for some time. New cases in the EU this week have averaged around 100,000 per day, a number that far outstrips the United States (which has recorded about half as many daily cases). The uptick has led to French President Emmanuel Macron to impose nighttime curfews in France’s major cities and declare the country in a state of health emergency for the first time since July.

The price of fish. Writing in Foreign Policy on October 6, Laurence Blair explains why a deal on fisheries has proved to be an elusive catch in Brexit negotiations. Reporting from the port town of Weymouth, Blair looks at the reasons—both rational and romantic—why fish have become such a slippery issue in trade talks.


What We’re Following Today 

A tale of two town halls. U.S. President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden hold dueling televised town hall meetings today in the battleground states of Florida and Pennsylvania. Both events begin at 8 p.m. EST. President Trump’s town hall will air live on NBC from Miami, his second campaign event of the day following an afternoon rally in Greenville, North Carolina. Biden’s event will air live on ABC from Philadelphia. The latest polling averages show Biden with a 7 point lead over Trump in Pennsylvania, and a narrower 2.7 point lead in Florida.

IMF and World Bank meetings. Kristalina Georgieva, the director of the International Monetary Fund, and David Malpass, the president of the World Bank, will deliver speeches to the plenary of the 2020 IMF/World Bank Group Annual Meetings. The addresses come as the IMF recently revised its projection on global economic health upward from its June prediction of a 5.2 percent contraction to a slightly less steep 4.4 percent drop.

This year’s event is taking place entirely online due to coronavirus restrictions—a detail that a local Washington deer apparently failed to note.

Thai authorities crack down on protests. Thai police cleared protesters from outside the office of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha in the early hours of this morning after the Thai government enacted an emergency decree banning gatherings of five or more people. Tens of thousands had taken to the streets in recent days to call for both a new constitution and Prayuth’s removal amid unrest that began with student protests in August. Two leaders of the protests—Arnon Nampa and Panupong Jadnok—have been arrested, according to the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights group.


Keep an Eye On

Edinburxit? Support for Scottish independence is at its highest-ever level, according to a new Ipsos MORI poll. Among those who had made up their minds, the poll found that 58 percent of respondents would vote yes in an independence referendum, with 42 percent against. (Accounting for undecided voters, the overall figures dropped to 55 percent for independence, and 39 percent against.) The poll also highlighted the contrast in public opinion toward Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson: Two-thirds of Scots view Sturgeon positively, whereas only about one in five Scots have a positive view of Johnson.

Norway blames Russia for cyberattack. Norwegian Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Soereide blamed Russia for “a concerted cyberattack” on the national parliament’s email system in August. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said that her government was naming Russia publicly in order “to give a clear message to the Russians that we do not accept this.” The Russian embassy in Oslo has called the allegations “unacceptable.”

China’s stock rebound. China’s economy continues to show positive signs of recovery ahead of upcoming third quarter GDP results. The value of stocks on the Shanghai and Shenzhen markets have risen to record highs, totaling $10.08 trillion, according to Bloomberg data. The figure beats the previous stock market record of $10.05 trillion set in June 2015.


Odds and Ends

Champagne on ice. Without much to celebrate in 2020, France’s champagne makers have seen a steep decline in sales of the bubbly drink over the past year, with national supermarket sales down 25 percent compared to the previous year. With fewer sales, bottles of champagne have begun piling up in cellars across the region. In order to prevent an oversupply, producers have decided to cut down on the number of grapes harvested this year. “It was a difficult decision, but one that was taken together for the general interest and the future of Champagne,” one winemaker told Euronews.

Berliner finger. A public information campaign in Berlin has caused controversy over its direct message to those who dare to disobey the city’s coronavirus rules. A new ad depicts a masked elderly woman, her middle finger raised to the camera, along with the caption “A wagging finger for all without masks: we uphold the corona rules.” The campaign, run by the Berlin Senate and Visit Berlin, has come under fire from opposition politicians, with one calling it “arrogant and offensive.”

The organizers are unfazed. “We wanted to use a language that suits the Berlin character and that underscores the dramatic pandemic situation—and that we managed,” a Visit Berlin representative told The Guardian.


That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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