The size of Prime Minister May's defeat was truly historic. The last British leader to even come close to matching the 230 vote margin was Ramsay McDonald, who in 1924 lost a vote to withdraw the prosecution of a communist activist by 161. Here's a look at how yesterday's vote compares to previous defeats for UK prime ministers.
Yau Abdul Karim lives and works in Garin Mai Jalah, located in the Yobe State of northeastern Nigeria. Essential to his work raising cattle is reliable access to water, yet environmental degradation has led to fewer water sources, severely impacting communities like his that depend on livestock. In 2019, with the help of FAO, Eni installed a special solar-powered well in Yau's town that provides water during the day as well as light at night.
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, says another independence referendum for Scotland is now a matter of "when not if," and that after leaving the UK, Scotland will launch a bid to rejoin the EU. But there are formidable obstacles ahead.
Getting to a vote will force a complex game of chicken with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. If a majority of Scots then vote for independence — hardly a sure thing – the process of extricating their new country from the UK will make Brexit look easy. Next, come the challenges of EU accession. In other words, Scotland's journey down the rocky road ahead has only just begun.
Obstacle 1 – Getting to a vote. Scotland can't stage a legally binding referendum without approval from the UK parliament, which can't happen without a go-ahead from Boris Johnson. Here's where the political game begins. Johnson knows an independence vote in Scotland could still go either way. Polls suggest support for independence winning by the narrowest of margins.
If Johnson says yes to a referendum, he could become the PM who lost Scotland and broke up the UK. That would likely end his political career. If he says no, he risks driving up support inside Scotland in favor of breaking away — and he knows he can't say no forever. The UK can't simply hold Scotland hostage. At least not indefinitely.
For now, Johnson can say, "Nicola, shouldn't you be focused on COVID and recovery?" To which Sturgeon will reply, "Yes, Boris, we are focused on COVID. But when it's under control, we want to vote." Johnson can throw money at Scotland and offer it more autonomy, but it's unlikely that either will change many Scottish minds on a question as large as independence.
Obstacle 2 – Winning the referendum. In 2014, Scotland voted to remain within the UK by a margin of 55-45. Much has changed since then. Though Scotland voted 62-38 for the UK to remain within the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum, the far larger number of votes in England carried the day, and Brexit pulled Scotland unwillingly from the EU. That's the main reason there's been a shift in Scotland in favor of independence since the first referendum.
But no one knows what might happen during a new campaign. Johnson's government will pull out all the stops to persuade Scots that independence is much riskier than they think, and he'll insist Scotland will be economically stronger inside the UK than outside. If Scotland votes to remain, even by the tiniest of margins, it will be at least a generation before another referendum can be contemplated.
Obstacle 3- Leaving the UK. Extricating Scotland from the UK will be far more costly and risky than the UK leaving Europe. After all, the UK joined the EU in 1973, while Scotland has been part of Great Britain since 1707. The legal and regulatory ties will be extraordinarily hard to untangle. The value of Scotland's exports to the rest of the UK is four times more than to the EU. That would change over time if Scotland joined the EU, but a hard border between England and Scotland would create an immediate shock and lasting damage. At least one recent study found that Scottish exit from the UK would be far more economically damaging than Brexit, even if Scotland eventually rejoins the EU.
Adding to the friction, Johnson's government, mindful of the movement for Irish reunification and independence chatter in Wales, will make everything to do with Scotland's exit as contentious and painful as possible.
Obstacle 4 – Joining the EU. This might be the easiest to surmount. After all, as part of the UK, Scotland was an EU member for nearly half a century. The process of political, economic, legal and regulatory alignment would be far easier than for any previous EU membership candidate.
That said, accession would depend on a unanimous vote of all current members. Spain, under challenge by Catalan separatists, might wield a veto to avoid setting a precedent for breakaway states. EU concessions to ease Spanish fears could smooth Scotland's path, depending on what's happening in Spanish politics at that moment.Bottom line. Brexit reminded us that secession movements aren't driven by pragmatism. They're fueled by hope, fear, anger, and pride. Those who want an independent Scotland can overcome all these obstacles. But we shouldn't underestimate the complexity of the problems ahead, or how long it will take to solve them.
Cyber is a tool, and sometimes a weapon. Whether espionage for commercial gain or indiscriminate attacks on critical infrastructure, actions taken in cyber space affect you directly, potentially upending even the most mundane realities of everyday life.
Join GZERO Media and Microsoft for a live conversation on cyber challenges facing governments, companies, and citizens in a Munich Security Conference "Road to Munich" event on Tuesday, May 18.
Our guests will discuss privacy, truth, security, and the urgency of improving cyber security and establishing cyber norms globally. Joining the discussion:
- Ian Bremmer, President, Eurasia Group & GZERO Media
- Brad Smith, President, Microsoft
- Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman, Munich Security Conference
- Jane Harman, President Emerita, Wilson Center
- Juliette Kayyem, Harvard Kennedy School Professor (moderator)
This event is being held in collaboration with the Munich Security Conference as part of their "Road to Munich" series.
Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace: Tuesday, May 18, 2021, 1pm EDT / 10am PDT
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:
Who is Elise Stefanik and what does she mean for the Republican Party right now?
Elise Stefanik is a young member from Upstate New York. She had originally started her career as a staffer in the George W. Bush administration, but in recent years, has turned into one of the most outspoken defenders of President Donald Trump, particularly during the impeachment trial last year. She's relevant right now because it looks like she'll be replacing Liz Cheney, the Representative from Wyoming and also the daughter of the former Vice President, who has been outspoken in her criticism of President Trump since the January 6th insurrection, and probably more importantly, outspoken in her criticism of the direction of the Republican Party.
The irony here though, is that while Cheney is going down, she's being replaced by somebody who, when she came into office, was expected to be a pretty standard-bearing Bush Republican. And so this is just really indicative of where the Party is, very hard to stay on in Republican leadership if you aren't going to be a supporter of President Trump. Too many of Cheney's colleagues thought she had become a distraction and wanted her gone. Stefanik is probably a placeholder. She says she doesn't want to serve in the position long-term. She eventually wants to take over the chairmanship of a committee, and she has many years ahead of her in Congress. She is very young.
What's the outlook for the Democrats' election bill?
Well, the Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced a bill to rewrite federal election law. Traditionally, election laws have been set by the state. States are allowed to choose how to do their redistricting. They're allowed to choose how people vote. Do they do mail-in votes? Do they have no-excuse mail-in votes? How many days of early voting are they going to allow? And, the Democrats bill would append that entire regime, and create a federal standard that every state would have to meet for number of days of pre-election day, in-person voting, standards around absentee voting, how to draw districts, taking it away from partisan gerrymandering and moving it towards a commission, in most states. And, there's been a lot of opposition to it. So the Democrats argue that this bill is necessary because Republicans are passing what they think are restrictive voting laws across the country. And Republicans are saying the Democrats are trying to take over and federalize elections to increase the chances that they win future elections and hold onto their current majorities in the House and Senate. And there's truth to both claims. The bill is very unlikely to move anywhere. It has 49 Democratic Senators who support it, who are co-sponsors, and one Democratic holdout, Joe Manchin. But even if Manchin never came around and said he supported the bill, it would require 60 votes to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, or the elimination of the legislative filibuster, so it's very unlikely to pass into law. You know this is a really big deal for the Democrats. They've given it the special designation S.1 in the Senate, H.R.1 in the House, which is a symbolic act suggesting this is their highest priority. But also, in a Rules Committee hearing earlier this week, both Majority Leader, Schumer, and Republican Minority Leader, McConnell, showed up to debate the bill in-person, debate amendments, and there've been multiple showdowns on the Floor. This is a really high-stakes piece of legislation. It would fundamentally tip the balance of power in favor of the Democrats were it to pass, which is, among other reasons, why Republicans are so opposed to seeing it get into law.
According to Delhi-based journalist Barkha Dutt, while the Indian government has finally started to mobilize in response to the COVID crisis, there's still a lot of denial about the severity of the ourbreak. "Our Health Minister, for instance, made a statement in the last 24 hours saying that India is better equipped to fight COVID in 2021 than in 2020. That's simply rubbish. We had India's Solicitor General telling the Supreme Court that there is no oxygen deficit as of now. That's simply not true." In an interview on GZERO World, Dutt tells Ian Bremmer that only the connection between fellow Indians, helping each other when the government cannot, has been a salve.
Watch the episode: India's COVID calamity
Listen: Ask national security experts how they view China today and they'll likely the use a term like "adversary" or "economic competitor." But what about "enemy?" How close is the world to all-out-war breaking out between United States and China? According to US Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), who served as Supreme Allied Commander to NATO, those odds are higher than many would like to admit. In fact, Stavridis says, the US risks losing its military dominance in the coming years to China. And if push comes to shove in a military conflict, it's not entirely clear who would prevail. Admiral Stavridis discusses his bestselling new military thriller 2034 and makes the case for why his fictional depiction of a US-China war could easily become reality.
Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:
What's the issue with the letter in France talking about the "civil war"?
Well, I think it is part of the beginning of the French election campaign. We have some people in the military encouraged by the more right-wing forces, warning very much for the Muslim question. That's part of the upstart to the election campaign next year. More to come, I fear.
Is there any update on the EU accession for the Western Balkan countries?
There was a meeting of the EU foreign ministers the other day and they were very much in favor of the process. But we still have the question of the Bulgarians blocking off Macedonia for historical unrelated reasons that are completely unacceptable but is a fact. And we also don't know really where the French are. So we are still waiting for the important decision on that.