BREXIT BLOWS UP

BREXIT BLOWS UP

A fragile peace within the UK’s governing Conservative Party has been shattered in the past two days, with the fate of Brexit negotiations and Theresa May’s government in the balance.


To put it politely, the prime minister’s Brexit plan was never going to be an easy sell. Here’s a snapshot of the challenges she still faces:

Theresa May leads a party and a nation deeply divided over what sort of relationship they want with Europe. Many who hope to ensure European institutions have no future say in how the UK crafts its laws and controls its borders will never be satisfied with anything less than a so-called “Hard Brexit,” a sharp break from the EU and its rules. On the other side, those who believe the UK must maintain as much continued access as possible to European markets see Hard Brexit as a blind leap from a speeding train.

Since taking over from David Cameron in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, May’s task has been to develop a plan specific enough on the terms of exit to win a green light from EU negotiators and vague enough on the future of UK-EU economic relations to prevent her party from dividing in two. She then needed to persuade her cabinet ministers to publicly back the plan. Then, the proposal would have to pass muster in 27 European capitals and a vote in the House of Commons.

Forty-eight hours ago, it appeared the best argument for her makeshift compromise, a plan that would leave the UK in a temporary customs union with the EU to avoid restoration of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, was the lack of a clear alternative, either to her proposal or her leadership. That may still be the case. But on Thursday, Dominic Raab, her Brexit secretary, became the seventh minister to quit May's cabinet in the past year, igniting an open revolt from some in the Hard Brexit camp. Tensions between May and this faction are likely to spike between now and mid-December, when a vote on the deal is expected in parliament.

What’s next? May, who used a press conference after Raab’s resignation yesterday to appeal directly to the British people, vows to soldier on and advance her plan. Some within her party have called for a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister, and it remains unclear as of Friday morning whether their number is enough to force one.

The ultimate Brexit questions remain:

  • Is it possible to craft any Brexit deal that can win approval both in the UK and across Europe?

  • If not, is the UK doomed to crash out of the UK toward an unknown future?

  • Might Britain be headed instead toward a second Brexit vote?

  • If so, and it produces a different outcome, how can future British governments mind the gap in public and official opinion that Brexit has created?

  • If a second vote were to produce the same outcome, what would come next?

The ongoing political chaos in London suggests we’re no closer to answers.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

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Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

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In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

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When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

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YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

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Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

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28: The UK and the EU have again failed to agree on post-Brexit trade rules for Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In a 28-page document, the British government had suggested further changes to trade rules that were already negotiated as part of the Brexit settlement, but Brussels was not having any of it.

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