The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 29 March 2017

Brexit

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And we’re off

Triggering Article 50 is simple – it’s what happens next that’s the hard bit.

Nine months after voting to leave the EU, the UK will finally take the first step towards the exit today when prime minister Theresa May officially triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and informs the EU of the country’s desire to depart. That’s the easy bit. What happens over the coming two years of negotiations, as the two sides try to find an amicable agreement on the terms of the UK’s departure, is less clear. During the referendum those campaigning to leave were vague about what would happen after the UK had “taken back control”; the following nine months have brought even less clarity. At least it now seems as if the negotiations won’t be entirely behind closed doors. Despite May’s insistence that there will be no “running commentary”, EU negotiator Michel Barnier is planning to regularly update the European Parliament and even publish the EU’s position papers. Given that the vote was supposed to be about democracy, a little openness about the process is the least that British voters deserve.

Politics

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Loving EU

Good vibes within the bloc could mean less hostility towards the UK.

It may be because the EU just celebrated its 60th anniversary or perhaps it’s the effect of the first stirrings of spring; either way, there’s a renewed pro-EU spirit on the continent, even as the UK prepares to leave the bloc. Positive economic news has certainly helped and the Dutch vote that kept the virulent anti-EU rhetoric of Geert Wilders at bay has emboldened many to the idea that France may also reject the far right. The question now is whether this will stoke conciliatory – or, at least, less emotionally fraught – feelings towards the UK as exit negotiations begin. What's certain is that the UK still has a lot of charming to do across Europe and should be prepared for much shuttle diplomacy in the coming months.

Broadcasting

Image: Reuters

On the blink

Hong Kong is set to gain two new TV channels – but will anyone actually switch on?

Television viewers in Hong Kong will soon be able to tune into two new channels. ViuTV’s free-to-air English language network is set to launch on Friday – a year after the new broadcaster unveiled its local language equivalent – and come May, Fantastic TV will debut its Cantonese channel. The reception is likely to be mixed. Entertainment channel ViuTV will air outsourced news and foreign programming to fulfil its licence obligations, which will struggle to appeal to expats who have a Netflix subscription; Fantastic TV’s future is already in doubt as its owner looks to offload its loss-making entertainment arm. Hong Kong’s turbulent TV industry is a far cry from its 1980s heyday when local stars transfixed the region. Dominant player TVB recently fought off a Chinese takeover attempt but the target was its historic programming rather than its current shows. With the private sector in peril, incoming HK leader Carrie Lam might consider investing more of Hong Kong’s annual surplus in building up public broadcaster RTHK.

Legislation

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High time

The grass is greener in Canada as Trudeau moves to legalise recreational marijuana use.

Canada aims to legalise marijuana by 1 July 2018. Legislation is expected to be proposed and debated from April, with the law – if passed – expected to come into force on Canada Day next year. If it passes, it will make Canada the third country in the world to fully legalise the recreational use of marijuana (medical marijuana can already be prescribed legally). It would also mark the fulfilment of a major election pledge by prime minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal party. It’s unclear whether a tariff would be placed on marijuana under the new law but Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories would be free to implement their own restrictions on its distribution. Trudeau and his ministers have been careful to avoid the notion that legalising marijuana will amount to a free-for-all once the law is changed.

From Monocle 24

Image: Getty Images

Postwar Japanese homes

Section D

‘The Japanese House: Architecture and Life after 1945’ at the Barbican is the first major UK exhibition on the subject and features the work of 40 architects. Plus: Monocle’s Fernando Augusto Pacho makes himself at home in a recreated full-scale Moriyama House from Pritzker prize-winning architect Ryue Nishizawa.

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