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In just three weeks, the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, to which it has belonged for the past 46 years. At this late hour, no one knows what exactly will happen.
A series of votes in Parliament next week could provide clarity or, as has been the case since the 2016 Brexit referendum, convolution. The votes on the terms and timing of Britain’s exit could still lead to a number of scenarios. Among them: a softer version of Brexit with closer ties to the EU, a second referendum, a general election, and the dreaded “no-deal Brexit” in which the UK crashes out of the bloc with no transitional arrangements in place. The first vote on Tuesday is for prime minister Theresa May’s deal, which has already been rejected once. If it is rejected again, “no one knows what will happen,” May said Friday.
Whatever does happen, damage has already been done (membership). Many companies have decided they can’t live with so much uncertainty, and have quit the UK to varying degrees. Bank of America is spending $400 million to transfer its European headquarters to Dublin. EasyJet, the UK’s largest airline, has had to transfer its ownership to non-British Europeans. Smaller companies without deep pockets for legal advice—and staff devoted to Brexit contingency planning—are more or less stuck. They are either running their businesses as usual and hoping for the best, or devoting time and money to stockpiling and other actions with the worst-case scenario in mind. Regardless, the vote’s impact on the economy hurts everyone. Even amid a global slowdown, the UK economy stands out for its sluggishness. Investment has plummeted since the referendum, and many European migrants who are key workers for low-wage sectors have already stopped coming.
Even if Brexit is softened, delayed, or canceled, the reputational damage the UK has inflicted upon itself won’t be easily repaired. Businesses won’t completely reverse their decisions to open offices abroad, uproot staff, or redirect investments away from Britain. The UK will be poorer for deciding to leave the EU, no matter how, when, or even whether it eventually quits the bloc. —Eshe Nelson
Life coaches’ careers are taking off. The US Census is a great source for data on evolving occupations. Personal trainers were officially added to the US government’s list of job categories in 2000; sommeliers got their moment in 2010. Michael Coren, writing in Quartz at Work, suggests life coaching will be the next category to watch for inclusion, as our quest for self-actualization draws more awareness to the field and greater numbers of people who want to work in it.
A Japanese spark plug maker’s pivot to the moon. Not everyone is happy about the transition to electric vehicles. Auto parts makers stand to lose out, among them Japan’s NGK Spark Plugs. But as Tim Fernholz writes, the 83-year-old company is applying one of its skills—making ceramic insulators that surround spark plugs—to designing a solid-state battery suitable for the moon’s extreme temperature swings. It’s already partnered with a lunar-bound spacecraft company.
No safety pins necessary. The island nation of Vanuatu has announced that it will move to ban single-use plastic items, including disposable diapers, leaving parents on the hook for all those dirty nappies. The truth is, cloth diapers get a bad rap, Annaliese Griffin reports. The modern versions are easy to use and may even save some money for the college fund.
Making geothermal mainstream. Geothermal power is not only green, but also flexible like natural gas, providing energy whenever needed. But in many places, it isn’t an option. Or so we thought. As Akshat Rathi reports, a Swedish company claims it can make geothermal power as accessible as wind and solar by making use of low-temperature heat. A Bill Gates-backed energy fund is on board, and steel plants are among those using the technology.
Facebook is being forced to confront the fact that people want meaningful connections. The company announced this week it will put more emphasis on small-group and one-on-one conversations, moving away from the town-square model of social media. As Jenny Anderson and Ephrat Livni report, people do indeed crave connection, and what they want is deeper, more intimate relationships, not a News Feed full of updates about what a distant relative had for lunch.
Civic duty. Few US jurors spend 20 years mulling their short service. But when a citizen sits on a murder trial that ends up with two people convicted and only one is clearly guilty, the experience can become a lifelong source of angst. In an essay for Slate, Seth Stevenson reflects on his role in the conviction of an innocent man who is in prison today because Stevenson failed to understand the power of a single juror.
The making of the Fox News White House. Partisan outlets have always marked the US media landscape, but in recent years Fox News has become something else entirely. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reports on the conservative channel’s transformation into what one source called “the closest we’ve come to having state TV.” Not only does Fox News bend over backwards defending Donald Trump, but it also provides him with the takes and informal advisors he largely relies upon.
The man who rebuilt a Tesla. With traditional automobiles, customers can often handle repair work themselves. An electric vehicle is another story. The Boston Globe’s Billy Baker tells the tale of Rich Benoit, possibly the first amateur mechanic to rebuild a damaged Tesla Model S on his own. Since Tesla doesn’t want anyone but Tesla working on its cars, Benoit used another broken Model S for parts—and gained YouTube fame along the way.
The hidden database of medical device malfunctions. Doctors researching surgical staplers or breathing machines can turn to a public database from the US Food and Drug Administration that tracks medical device failures. But as Christina Jewett shows in a Kaiser Health News investigation, the agency has also built and expanded a hidden repository of reports on device-related injuries and malfunctions. Patients have been hurt as a result of the information blackout.
The poop-power schemes cropping up in the developing world. Hundreds of millions of people practice open defecation because they lack other options. A 2015 UN report estimated the poop they produce could generate at least $200 million in methane production alone and power up to 10 million homes. For Gizmodo’s Earther, Robin George Andrews examines efforts underway to capitalize on this “renewable” energy source in Africa, where the idea of doing so is catching on.
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, lunar batteries, and hidden databases to firstname.lastname@example.org. Join the next chapter of Quartz by downloading our app and becoming a member. Today’s Weekend Brief was edited by Steve Mollman and Kira Bindrim.