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UK leader Boris Johnson loses second bid to hold an early election

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Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions session in the House of Commons in London, Britain September 4, 2019.

Jessica Taylor | ©UK Parliament | Reuters

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lost a second bid to hold a snap election, making it more likely that he will have to ask the EU for an extension to the current Brexit deadline.

The government needed 434 votes — or two-thirds of the votes from all lawmakers in the 650-seat lower house of parliament. But in the early morning Tuesday vote, only 293 supported the government’s proposal.

Johnson said the government will press on with negotiating a Brexit deal and will not delay Britain’s exit from the European bloc. He also said he will be going to the European Union Summit on Oct. 17 in a bid to get an agreement.

During the debate Monday, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party will not vote for an election until the possibility of a no-deal Brexit at the end of October has been taken off the table.

“Until … no-deal has been taken off the table… we will not vote to support the dissolution of this house and a general election,” Corbyn told parliament. Britain is due to leave the European Union on Oct. 31.

“We’re eager for an election. But as keen as we are, we are not prepared to risk inflicting the disaster of no-deal on our communities,” Corbyn said.

It was widely expected that Johnson would lose the vote on Monday evening, having lost a bid to hold a snap vote last Wednesday amid upheaval in British politics. A week ago, a majority of lawmakers (including members of the ruling Conservative Party) voted to take control of the parliamentary agenda from Boris Johnson’s government.

A majority then approved legislation to block Johnson from being able to oversee a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

That legislation — which stipulates that Johnson must ask the EU for an extension to the Brexit deadline if no deal is approved or rejected by parliament by October 19 — received royal approval and became law on Monday, making it ostensibly illegal for Johnson to defy it.

Opposition parties had already agreed that they would not approve Johnson’s motion to hold an early election before the legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit was enshrined in law, or a delay was secured from the EU. An early election could have strengthened Johnson’s hand to repeal the legislation and proceed with a no-deal Brexit.

In typical flamboyant fashion, Johnson has said he would rather “die in a ditch” than ask for more time from the EU. As such, it is still unclear whether the government could try to circumvent or challenge the legislation.

When asked whether the prime minister could defy parliament by pursuing a no-deal Brexit, the government’s Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay was coy, telling CNBC Sunday that “the ministerial code requires obeying the law … but the key issue is how do we deliver on the democratic results of the British people.”

Parliament will be suspended by the close of business Monday and will re-open on October 14 for the start of a new parliamentary year.

Election before 2020

Even if the government does end up asking the EU for another delay to its departure to March 31, 2020, (the original departure date was meant to be March 29, 2019) it’s not clear whether the EU would approve a delay; France, in particular, is not keen and could potentially veto the move.

Ahead of the election vote Monday, Brexit watchers had already noted that it made little sense for opposition parties to give Johnson the early snap election ahead of the Brexit departure date, although a snap vote is still expected before the end of the year.

“It would be better for the rebels to force Johnson cap in hand to go the EU Council (meeting) on 17 October to ask for an extension first, or to let him refuse before toppling him in a vote of no-confidence — that would give rebel MPs, if they can organize, control over the election timetable,” Kallum Pickering, senior economist at Berenberg Bank, said in a note Monday.

“Therefore, while we expect a snap election before the end of the year, we do not expect it to be triggered before a further delay is secured — implying 17 October onwards. Hence, we doubt there will be an election ahead of the currently planned Brexit day on 31 October,” he added.

Boris Johnson’s authority shaken

Having only been elected to lead the Conservative Party in July, Johnson’s authority has already been sorely shaken by key resignations from his cabinet because of his renegade approach to Brexit. His own brother resigned from the cabinet last week, saying he was torn between “family loyalty and the national interest.”

Another key minister Amber Rudd resigned on Saturday night, saying that she didn’t believe the government was doing enough to get a deal with the EU.

A key stumbling block to the Brexit deal being approved by a majority of the U.K. Parliament is the contentious “backstop” policy regarding Northern Ireland and maintaining a frictionless border with the Republic of Ireland.

Having met his Irish counterpart in Dublin on Monday, Johnson insisted it was possible to find a practical solution to get around the “backstop” problem and that he wanted a deal with the EU.

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Huawei Chairman speaks about US blacklist impact at East Tech West

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Huawei Chairman Liang Hua at CNBC’s East Tech West conference in Guangzhou, China.

Dave Zhong | Getty Images for CNBC

The U.S. decision to allow American firms to continue doing business with Huawei would have little impact on the Chinese tech company, according to a senior executive at Huawei.

Huawei is able to ship its products to customers without relying on U.S. parts, Chairman Liang Hua told CNBC’s Geoff Cutmore at the East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou, China on Monday.

Reuters reported that President Donald Trump’s administration is about to issue a two-week extension of a license that will allow U.S. firms to continue supplying technology parts to Huawei.

“No matter whether there will be an extension, in terms of its real impact on Huawei, it will be very limited,” Liang said in translated remarks during a panel. “Our products are able to be shipped without the reliance on the U.S. components and chips.”

He said that if U.S. companies are not allowed to sell to Huawei, it would “pose a bigger damage” to them. Huawei has the ability to ensure all of its main products, including 5G base stations, can be manufactured and supplied to its customers without relying on U.S. parts, according to the chairman.

Huawei is the world’s biggest telecommunications equipment maker and one of the leading names in the development of 5G — the next generation of high-speed mobile internet technology that aims to provide faster data speeds and more bandwidth to carry growing levels of web traffic. It’s seen as central to China’s ambitions in becoming a dominant player in 5G.

In May, the U.S. added Huawei and its affiliates to a blacklist, the so-called Entity List, and said the company was a security risk. As a result, U.S. companies cannot sell or transfer technology to Huawei without a government-issued license. Washington later softened its stance and temporarily extended the license for American firms.

Despite pressure from the U.S., Huawei claimed in October that it has signed more than 60 commercial 5G contracts with “leading global carriers.”

No direct contact with US government

Huawei’s chairman said the company has not had direct communication with the U.S. government. “We don’t have a channel to talk to them either,” Liang said.

Asked why he thought officials in the U.S. government were not speaking to Huawei directly, Liang said the U.S. government does not know the tech company well enough. “The lack of communication is because of a lack of knowledge.”

Even amid reports that the U.S. government is working to extend the license for U.S. firms to sell to Huawei, U.S. Attorney General William Barr recent wrote a letter to the Federal Communications Commission Chairman saying the company, along with Chinese rival ZTE, “cannot be trusted.”

Barr wrote in support of the telecom regulator’s draft plans that would prevent Huawei and ZTE from selling goods to entities, such as regional and rural broadband providers, using money from the FCC’s Universal Service Fund. He said the companies’ role in the global 5G equipment market was a reason for caution.

Liang told CNBC that the move would “only damage the broadband network suppliers in those rural areas. It would only cause a bigger digital divide in the U.S.”

Despite the face-off against the U.S. government, Huawei CEO Ren Zhengfei said in September the company is willing to exclusively license its 5G technology to an American firm to create a level playing field for competitors.

The license would include Huawei’s proprietary 5G tech including source code, hardware, software, verification, production, and manufacturing know-how.

But on Monday, Liang said that so far, no U.S. company has approached Huawei directly about the licenses.

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Self-driving cars still face many hurdles, says Chinese automaker

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A Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. (GAC) Witstar autonomous concept electric vehicle, shown in 2015.

Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The technology behind self-driving cars has advanced in recent years, but the vehicles still have a long way to go before becoming a common feature on the roads, said an executive from a a major Chinese automaker.

Some of the hurdles impeding self-driving cars include legal restrictions, people’s mobility habits, and technology that’s still changing and maturing, Feng Xingya, president of Guangzhou Automobile Group or GAC, said on Monday at CNBC’s East Tech West conference in the Nansha district of Guangzhou city, China.

“A self-driving system is a developing concept,” Feng said in Mandarin translated by CNBC. He added that the technology behind such vehicles are still being developed, with breakthroughs coming in batches.

In the near future, it’s possible that self-driving cars will be allowed in specific areas or buildings, said Feng. But having autonomous cars on all roads would require factors to work together, he said. Among those factors are legislation and people’s acceptance of such vehicles.

Future of automobile industry

Feng said self-driving cars someday will play a big role in transportation, so it’s an area that GAC is working toward.

In July this year, the Hong Kong-listed automaker introduced an in-car system it developed in collaboration with technology giants Tencent and Huawei. The system, Adigo, includes an autonomous driving component which Feng said has achieved “very high security and safety standards.”

“We can see that there is still room for improvement. For the long term, we want to solve the technology problem for unmanned driving system,” Feng said.

“In the entire automobile industry, this is still in an early stage,” he said. “The future is in autonomous driving.”

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‘Stop looking for a record deal’

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Akon performs as part a benefit concert in San Juan, Puerto Rico on March 18, 2018.

Gladys Vega | Getty Images

Senegalese-American singer Akon says young music artists should avoid looking for lucrative record deals and instead focus on building their careers independently.

“In the next 3 to 5 years, the major labels won’t exist anymore,” the multi-platinum selling R&B artist told CNBC in an interview. “So just stop looking for a record deal.”

“You’re wasting your time, you’re losing money doing it obviously, and you’re gonna lose control,” he added.

Akon, whose real name is Aliaune Thiam, enjoyed much popularity in the mid-2000s with hits like “Smack That” and “I Wanna Love You.” He started two successful record labels, and more recently launched a third in partnership with Motown veteran Kedar Massenburg.

Artists have increasingly gone down the route of launching their careers through unorthodox methods like releasing a mixtape online to gain traction for their music. Chance the Rapper is one artist in America that managed to do exactly that, while Stormzy in the U.K. went viral with a track posted onto YouTube.

According to Akon, that might be the way to go for other emerging musicians, though he says he himself was “super lucky” because he “actually went through the system” to learn the music business.

“Now it’s a totally different game,” he said. “You’re almost negotiating against yourself when you decide to go to a major.”

“All you know is they offered you a million bucks,” Akon added. “You’re not even realizing your streaming revenue alone before you’ve monetized it is worth five million bucks.”

“You gotta understand the business, learn how it actually works and just stay independent because that’s the best way to go.”

The music business was built on robbing the artist.

He says he spent a great deal of his childhood in Senegal, and more recently has set up a few initiatives aimed at addressing poverty in Africa. One is a project looking to provide electricity to more Africans with solar power, while another is a cryptocurrency, aptly named “Akoin,” which would be used in a city being built in his country of heritage.

While some artists have bemoaned the increased availability of their music online squeezing their income, Akon claimed that the rise of technology means the industry is actually “a lot more vibrant now than it used to be.”

“The music business was built on robbing the artist,” Akon said. “The first contract ever made has never changed. You’re just amending it.”

“You’re going to get stabbed no matter how you look at it — the question is, how do I negotiate to where the knife isn’t pushed so deep? What digital did is it created 50% of the transparency we always needed.”

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