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.

This week, the market value of Tencent, China's biggest video game company, nosedived after a state media outlet suggested that online gaming was as addictive and destructive as opium. Tencent immediately pledged to cap the number of hours people can play, and to keep minors off its platforms.

It's the latest example of a months-long crackdown on major Chinese technology firms that until recently were viewed as some of the world's most powerful and successful companies, as well as a source of national pride. Beijing's about-face on its own tech titans could have big implications for China, and beyond.

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Whenever Burkina Faso is in the news, it's often about how the crisis-ridden country has got caught up in the crosshairs of horrific jihadist violence plaguing the Sahel.

But this week, the nation of 20 million was celebrating because Hugues Fabrice Zango won its first-ever Olympic medal after finishing third in the men's triple jump in Tokyo.

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Should people get COVID vaccine booster shots? Not yet, says the World Health Organization, which is pushing for rich nations or those with access to jabs to hold off until at least the end of September so all countries get to fully vaccinate at least 10 percent of their populations before some jump ahead with boosters. But the WHO's call has fallen on deaf ears in nations like Israel, France, Germany and Russia, which are already planning to offer boosters, in part to better protect people against the more contagious delta variant. What's more, mRNA vaccine makers Pfizer and Moderna are recommending supplemental doses for the same reason. The problem is that, beyond the obvious moral imperative for equal access to vaccines, if the rich continue hoarding jabs while vaccination rates stay low elsewhere, the virus will continue to thrive — and mutate into new, potentially even more infectious variants that sooner or later will reach every corner of the planet.

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80: If polar ice caps continue to melt at their current pace due to climate change, 80 percent of all emperor penguins will be wiped out by the end of the century because they need the ice for breeding and keeping their offspring safe. American authorities want to list emperor penguins, which only live in Antarctica, as an endangered species so that US fishing vessels will be required to protect them when operating in their habitat.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent COVID-19 policy developments:

The Biden administration extended an eviction moratorium even after the Supreme Court said they couldn't, what's next?

Well, the CDC imposed a nationwide eviction moratorium in light of increased risk from evicted people because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Supreme Court in June ruled that they (CDC) overextended their authority in doing so and mandated that the moratorium expire on schedule in July. A group of progressive activists weren't happy about this and raised a huge stink in Congress, but Congress recessed for their August vacation before they could solve the problem, putting big pressure on President Biden to extend the moratorium even though he said he didn't think that it would pass constitutional muster. The CDC did it anyway, extending the moratorium until October 3rd, which is a time that's short enough to probably avoid it being overturned by lawsuits, but long enough that Congress has time to figure out how to either extend it on a bipartisan basis or put more money into a rental assistance fund that few people have taken advantage of so far. This whole incident shows the power of progressive activists in the Biden administration who were able to elevate the profile of this issue and potentially prevent millions of people from losing their homes this summer.

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On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer takes a look at the yin and the yang of alcohol's role in high-level diplomacy and society at large. Alcohol can bring people together just as easily as it can tear them apart. From a 1995 Clinton/Yeltsin Summit where a drunk Yeltsin almost derailed Bosnian peace talks, to Obama's Beer Summit and the recent G7 Summit, booze plays a part in how world leaders interact. Globally, alcohol consumption has been steadily increasing, by over 70 percent between 1990 and 2017, according to one report. . Low and middle-income nations like Vietnam, India, and China are a driving force behind that trend, with drinking in Southeast Asia rising by over 34 percent between 2010 and 2017. And yet, amidst this global booze boom, the world has only grown more and more divided.

Watch the episode: The (political) power of alcohol

Equestrian jumpers, and their horses, are disciplined species. They don't appreciate surprises very much.

But many participants were caught off guard during this week's individual jumping qualifiers in Tokyo by a very daunting statue of a sumo wrestler on the hurdle course (which is dotted with statues paying homage to traditional Japanese culture, like geisha kimonos, cherry blossoms, and taiko drums).

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