Global Political Calendar: Will May finally claim a Brexit win?
By John Goodrich

British MPs will vote again on Brexit ahead of a critical EU summit, China's foreign minister will be in Brussels at an important time for China-Europe ties, and two maverick presidents will meet at the White House.

Deal and delay?

On January 15, Theresa May's much-maligned Brexit deal was crushed by 230 votes. On March 12, it was defeated by 149. By March 21, the British prime minister is expected to have tried again.  

With the clock ticking down, no clear support for alternatives, and hitherto opponents wavering in the face of a lengthy Brexit delay, there is a glimmer of hope for May's deal.

Swaying the Democratic Unionists, the small Northern Irish party that props up May's government, is the key. Unlock those votes – talks between the sides on legal clarifications are ongoing amid rumors of possible additional funding for Northern Ireland – and many of the hardliners in May's own Conservative Party are expected to follow.

Will May, finally, claim victory? There's little doubt vote three will be much closer than the first or second. Even a narrow defeat would keep the deal alive – and probably lead to a fourth meaningful vote. Another factor to watch is amendments, in particular one which would see May's deal passed on the condition that decision is ratified in a second referendum.

Whatever happens, the European Council summit on Thursday and Friday will see May ask EU leaders for a Brexit delay: Three months if her deal is passed and a longer extension for a new plan if it again fails. Any decision must be unanimously approved by the EU27 leaders.

China and Europe

Brexit is hogging the headlines in Europe, but an important few weeks also lie ahead for the relationship between China and the European Union.

Beijing last week urged the bloc to view China's progress in a "reasonable and unbiased way" after a new EU policy document described the country as a "strategic competitor" and a "systemic rival" as well as a "cooperation partner."

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who at the recent Two Sessions urged Europe to take an "independent" policy stance towards Beijing, will be in Brussels on Monday for the ninth China-EU High Level Strategic Dialogue. Wang also announced at his Two Sessions press conference that Chinese President Xi Jinping's first overseas trip this year will be to Europe.

China-EU ties are also one of the key items on the agenda for the European Council summit on March 21-22, with leaders from the bloc discussing preparations for a China-EU summit expected to take place in early April.

When populists meet

U.S. President Donald Trump and Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro – two self-styled right-wing populist leaders, often compared to one another – will meet in Washington on Tuesday.

The meeting is eagerly-anticipated. The leaders have much in common in terms of style, use of social media, and direction: Bolsonaro is often dubbed the "Trump of the Tropics," and the Brazilian president has strongly backed his U.S. counterpart.

An interview with Fox News is on the cards, according to Brazil's presidential spokesperson, and a joint presidential Rose Garden press conference is likely. Intriguingly, estranged Trump adviser Steve Bannon will be a special guest of Bolsonaro for dinner on the eve of the White House meeting. 

Mutual admiration is certain to be on display between the presidents, and the men will likely address areas of common cause. They have both distanced their countries from multilateral institutions, both promised to move their respective embassies in Israel to Jerusalem, and found common ground on Venezuela.

A trade deal could be discussed, and defense cooperation, combating transnational crime and Brazilian membership of the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development are likely to be on the agenda.

But for many observers, the optics of the maverick leaders standing side-by-side – and their tweets – will be the highlight.


Monday: Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends the ninth China-EU High Level Strategic Dialogue in Brussels, Chinese Vice Premier Hu Chunhua begins visits to Argentina, Uruguay and Dominica, Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin begins a four-day trip to China, European Council President Donald Tusk meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, and the African Union discusses the Central African Republic peace agreement in Ethiopia.

Tuesday: British MPs are expected to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal for a third time, European Council President Tusk visits Ireland, and U.S. President Donald Trump meets Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the White House.

Wednesday: Vice Premier Hu Chunhua is in Buenos Aires for the second high-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds talks with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem as part of a tour which also takes the top U.S. diplomat to Lebanon and Kuwait.

Thursday: A two-day European Council summit begins in Brussels, and leaders of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Peru, Guyana and Suriname are invited to Chile to attend PROSUR, a new grouping of Latin American countries.

Friday: The European Council summit enters day two, and Thai parties hold final rallies ahead of Sunday's general election.

Saturday: The three-day China Development Forum, attended by global business leaders, begins in Beijing.

Sunday: Voters go to the polls in Thailand's general election, Comoros holds a presidential election, Burkina Faso holds a constitutional referendum, and Israeli PM Netanyahu is expected to address the annual AIPAC conference in Washington.