Global Political Calendar: Will Brexit vote break the deadlock?
By John Goodrich
A big week lies ahead for Brexit and Japan-Russia ties, while a stalemate in the U.S. shutdown row continues, the Finnish leader visits Beijing and President Xi Jinping's special envoy Yang Jiechi departs on a four-nation tour.
A handful of MPs have now said they will back Prime Minister Theresa May's deal despite reservations and more may follow, but – unless a letter from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, expected on Monday, includes a dramatic concession – a majority are expected to vote against.
Parliamentary nuances are now central, as MPs seek to wrest control of the process from the government and break the deadlock. Ahead of the main vote on Tuesday, amendments which could spare May a large defeat will be put to MPs. One in particular, which would allow MPs to vote against both the prime minister's deal and a no-deal, has a chance of passing.
Ultimately such an amendment could help the government, which is concentrating on reducing the margin of any loss: a small defeat – in a direct vote or an amendment – could allow May to put an amended deal before MPs again, but a rout would require fundamental changes.
Add to the mix that the opposition would be expected to table a motion of no confidence in the government after a defeat of the deal, and a dramatic week lies ahead.
Russia-Japan peace talks
The Japanese foreign minister, Taro Kono, is due to meet Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on Monday with a peace treaty on the agenda.
The countries have not signed a post-World War Two peace treaty due to their rival claims to four Pacific islands, known as the Southern Kurils in Russia and the Northern Territories in Japan.
The meeting between the foreign ministers will set the table for top-level talks next week, with Shinzo Abe expected in the Russian capital for discussions with Vladimir Putin.
The leaders agreed to accelerate moves towards a peace treaty when they met in Singapore in November 2018, but many obstacles remain.
As President Donald Trump continues to argue for 5.7 billion U.S. dollars in border wall funding, around 800,000 federal workers have missed at least one paycheck, the air transportation system is under strain, and stories of struggling families are only going to increase over the coming days.
The shutdown is also weighing on markets and economists have cut first quarter growth forecasts. According to S&P Global Ratings, within two weeks the U.S. economy will have lost 6 billion U.S. dollars as a result of the closure – more than Trump has requested for the wall.
Polling suggests blame is increasingly being laid at the White House gates, with three pollsters showing a four-point uptick over the past two weeks in people saying Trump bears more responsibility for the situation than congressional Democrats.
Trump, who celebrates two years in office on Sunday, is stuck in a corner. One face-saving way out might be for the president to call a national emergency in the knowledge that it would be challenged in the courts, and in the meantime reopen the government – ending what Senator Chris Murphy called "the dumbest shutdown ever."
Finnish president in China
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto holds high-level talks in Beijing this week, and sport will be one of the issues on the agenda as China continues preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The opening of the China-Finland Winter Sport Year is expected to be one of the centerpieces of his visit.
Elsewhere, Yang Jiechi, special representative of President Xi Jinping, will pay official visits to the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon from January 13 to 19 and attend the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.
Monday: Finnish President Sauli Niinisto visits China, Yang Jiechi, special representative of President Xi Jinping, begins a four-nation tour of the Middle East and Africa, the World Future Energy Summit begins in Abu Dhabi, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono meets Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart, in Moscow, and Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa visits Russia.
Tuesday: French President Emmanuel Macron launches a "great national debate" in bid to calm the "gilets jaunes" protests, U.S. attorney-general nominee William Barr begins confirmation hearings, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wraps up a nine-nation Middle East tour, and the International Criminal Court rules on the release of former Cote d'Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo.
Wednesday: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov holds his annual press conference in Moscow, Argentina's President Mauricio Macri visits Brazil, and the World Economic Forum publishes its annual Global Risks report.
Thursday: ASEAN foreign ministers gather in Thailand, and Russian President Vladimir PutinmeetsAleksandar Vucic, his Serbian counterpart, in Belgrade.
Friday: German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomes Italian President Sergio Mattarella to Berlin.
Saturday: Lebanon hosts the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, and candidates for the Nigerian presidency take part in a televised debate.
Sunday: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits Russia, and Donald Trump celebrates the second anniversary of his inauguration as U.S. president.