Britain’s foreign minister said Thursday that negotiations on a trade deal with the European Union will reach a “moment of finality” this weekend, with both sides assessing chances of an agreement as slim. To prepare for a possible no-deal exit on Jan. 1, the EU on Thursday proposed four contingency measures to make sure air and road traffic can continue as smoothly as possible for the next six months. It also proposes that fishermen will still have access to each other’s waters for up to a year, to limit the commercial damage of a no-deal split. The plans depend on the U.K. offering similar initiatives.
“Our responsibility is to be prepared for all eventualities,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. Von der Leyen and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a three-hour dinner meeting Wednesday in hope of unblocking stalled talks, but came away without making substantial progress.
US regulators filed landmark antitrust lawsuits against Facebook, the second major government offensive this year against once seemingly untouchable tech behemoths. The Federal Trade Commission and 48 states and districts sued the social network giant, accusing it of abusing its market power to squash smaller competitors and seeking remedies that could include a forced spinoff of Facebook’s prized Instagram and WhatsApp messaging services. The company’s conduct has crimped consumers’ choices and harmed their data privacy, the regulators charged.
Once lionized as innovators and job creators — and largely left alone by Washington for nearly two decades — Big Tech companies have seen their political fortunes plummet. Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple have come under scrutiny from Congress, federal regulators, state attorneys general and European authorities. Their once-considerable political support in Congress has eroded. Lawmakers of both major parties are championing stronger oversight of the industry, arguing that its massive market power is out of control, crushing smaller competitors and endangering consumer privacy.
China is imposing restrictions on travel to Hong Kong by some US officials and others in retaliation for similar measures imposed on Chinese individuals by Washington, according to the country’s Foreign Ministry. U.S. diplomatic passport holders visiting Hong Kong and nearby Macao will temporarily no longer receive visa-free entry privileges, spokesperson Hua Chunying said. US administration officials, congressional staffers, employees of non-governmental organizations and their immediate family members will face “reciprocal sanctions,” Hua said.
She was apparently referring to US sanctions that bar certain Chinese and Hong Kong officials from traveling to the US or having dealings with the US financial system over their roles in imposing a sweeping National Security Law passed this summer that ushered in a crackdown on free speech and opposition political activity in Hong Kong. Hua said the move was taken “given that the U.S. side is using the Hong Kong issue to seriously interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s core interests.”
A military parade was held Thursday in the Azerbaijani capital in celebration of the peace deal with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh that saw Azerbaijan reclaim much of the separatist region along with surrounding areas. The agreement took force exactly a month ago and put an end to six weeks of fierce fighting between the two ex-Soviet nations over Nagorno-Karabakh. It was seen as a major victory in Azerbaijan, but prompted mass protests in Armenia, with opposition supporters demanding the ouster of the country’s prime minister over his handling of the conflict.
Nagorno-Karabakh lies within Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. That war left Nagorno-Karabakh itself and substantial surrounding territory in Armenian hands. More than 3,000 people took part in the parade on Thursday, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the event.