The Brexit Wedge

The Brexit Wedge

In normal times, news that a prime minister and opposition leader were discussing their differences in a bid to reach compromise would stir hope for progress, and so it may be with Brexit. But the times are nowhere near normal in today's UK, and the extra few months that European leaders gave British politicians this week to sort out their Brexit plan will put extraordinary stress on both of the UK's largest parties—with uncertain consequences.

That's because both parties are divided internally in the Brexit fight with neither unified around a clear path forward. Consider the following:

The Conservative Party's problem: There are deep divisions of opinion within Prime Minister Theresa May's party on what sort of Brexit is best for Britain. Though she has pledged to treat the vote for Brexit as an expression of the people's will, those within her party who support "Brexit by any means necessary" suspect that she's less than fully committed to the cause, particularly because she voted in the referendum to keep the UK within the EU.

May needs Labour votes to pass a Brexit plan, but the hardline skeptics in her party will use any concessions she offers the opposition as proof she has betrayed her party and denied Britons the Brexit they want. In fact, more than 100 Tories preparing to run in local elections next month signed a public warning this week that voters see her willingness to compromise toward a softer Brexit as a "breach of faith."

The Labour Party's problem: Leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, opposed Britain's entry into the EU decades ago and has never argued forcefully that the UK should remain. As with May, this creates mistrust within his party's rank and file, the vast majority of whom supported the remain side in the referendum.

Despite anti-Brexit sentiment within his party, Corbyn knows that about 60 percent of seats his MPs won in the last elections represent constituencies where a majority voted for Brexit. He also knows that to win a majority at the next elections, they must secure even more votes from people who want the UK out of the EU.

Now that May is forced to negotiate with them, the Labour Party's divisions are becoming more important. Earlier this month, 25 Labour MPs signed a public letter opposing a second referendum. But days later, 83 Labour MPs signed a public letter of their own demanding that any deal Corbyn might strike with the government must be ratified by a "confirmatory public vote"—in essence, a second referendum. The authors added that, "It is not Labour's job to rescue Theresa May and usher in her successor."

The bottom line: May's insistence on sticking with her own Brexit plan for so long saved both parties from making truly hard choices, but talk of compromise now pushes us into a new phase of the Brexit crisis. May and Corbyn each face threats of mutiny from within their parties, but changes in leadership alone won't eliminate deep intra-party divisions on the larger Brexit questions.

In short, a few more months of anguish and anger over Brexit might well drive a wedge right down the middle of both of Britain's largest political parties. The implications of that problem, for the UK and its politics, might prove even more consequential—and difficult to predict—than the impact of Brexit itself.

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Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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Vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens before the rest of the world, has been effective for rich nations like the United States and Israel. But leaving behind so much of the global population isn't just a humanitarian issue. It could prolong the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization's Chief Scientist, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, who argues that what the global vaccination effort most urgently lacks are doses, not dollars. In a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World, she calls for a large increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and suggests we may be seeing alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Listen: Soumya Swaminathan calls for a massive increase in the global vaccine supply in order to prevent the rise of more dangerous and vaccine-evading super-variants, in a wide-ranging interview with Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast. Dr. Swaminathan, Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, argues that vaccine nationalism, where countries prioritize their own citizens ahead of the rest of the world, will only prolong the pandemic because a virus does not stop at any national border. She also weighs in on a controversial new WHO report investigating the origins of COVID-19 and discusses when she thinks the world's children should get vaccinated. In addition, she suggests we may see alternative vaccine forms, like nasal sprays, sooner than we think.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

India, the world's third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, is one of the countries worst affected by climate change. But it takes issue with those now asking it to clean up its act. Why, the Indians ask, should we give up our right to get rich by burning fossil fuels like you developed economies have done for generations?

That's precisely the message that India's energy minister had for the US and other wealthy nations at a recent Zoom summit after they pressured Delhi to set a future deadline for net zero emissions. For India, he explained, such targets are "pie in the sky" aspirations that do little to address the climate crisis the country faces right now.

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The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are nearly a year away, but discussion of a potential boycott is already stoking tensions on both sides of the US-China relationship. Officials in Washington and other Western capitals are coming under mounting pressure from activists to respond to human rights abuses in China. An increasingly assertive Beijing, meanwhile, vigorously rejects any foreign criticism of what it regards as internal issues.

The last time the US boycotted an Olympics was in 1980, when it withdrew from the Summer Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. Four years later, the Soviet Union repaid in kind by skipping the Games in Los Angeles. Would the US and its allies do something like that again? And how might China respond? Eurasia Group analysts Neil Thomas and Allison Sherlock explain the drivers of the boycott movement and its possible fallout.

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In two weeks, US President Joe Biden will be hosting an online "climate summit" to mark Earth Day. He'll ask China and India to sign up to America's ambitious new plan to slow down climate change. Will they go for it? China is the world's largest polluter, but Beijing is rolling out solar and wind power as fast as it's burning coal. India, meanwhile, is loathe to pick up the slack for rich countries that polluted their way to wealth and now want everyone else to agree to emissions cuts. No matter what happens, any successful plan to reduce global emissions will require buy-in from these three nations which, along with the European Union, account for almost 60 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions nowadays. Here's a look at emissions by the world's top polluters compared to everyone else over the last two decades.

Two big Andean elections: This Sunday, Ecuadorians go to the polls for the second time this year in a close presidential runoff, while Peruvians will vote in the first round of their own presidential election. In Ecuador, the matchup is between the leftwing-populist frontrunner Andrés Arauz, who has pledged to blow up the country's IMF agreements and boost national oil production, and Guillermo Lasso, a pro-business candidate who is seen as the choice of continuity with the current market-friendly government. Voter abstention is likely to be high, and the final result could very well be close and contested in a polarized country that was struggling with massive social unrest even before the pandemic struck. Meanwhile in Peru — which recently went through three presidents in the space of a week — the candidate field is hugely fragmented. Those with a decent shot to make it to the second round include "change" candidates like the leftist former lawmakers Yohny Lescano and Verónica Mendoza, as well as the prominent neoliberal economist Hernando De Soto, who has recently risen in the polls. Former soccer star George Forsyth is also in the mix, as is Keiko Fujimori, daughter of authoritarian former president Alberto Fujimori. Both of this Sunday's elections will serve as a kind of bellwether for the political mood in a region that has been devastated by the public health and economic impact of the pandemic.

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