Parliament’s in the Driver’s Seat Now on Brexit: Balance of Power
Even by recent Brexit standards, the drama playing out in Britain’s Parliament is remarkable.
The last time a U.K. government lost three votes in one day, as happened yesterday, was 40 years ago. The parallels between then and now are impossible to ignore: bitter in-fighting, surreal filibustering and Machiavellian maneuvering against a backdrop of a country battling to define its relationship with Europe.
Back then, the minority Labour government led by James Callaghan was put out of its misery in a confidence vote, and that very risk similarly hangs over Theresa May before the main Dec. 11 ballot on her Brexit deal.
In short, the prime minister is losing the power struggle with Parliament over the Brexit endgame. It’s now possible lawmakers who favor keeping close ties to the EU could seek to take Brexit in an entirely different direction, for example by keeping Britain in the EU’s single market or even halting the process entirely.
Ardent Brexiteers may yet see the risk of no deal at all as a reason to rally behind May. They’re having to watch as Parliament does exactly what they called for in the 2016 referendum campaign: taking back control — just probably not in the direction they wanted.
Beyond that, when does a political crisis become a constitutional crisis? Can Parliament trump the will of the government? That scenario has to be countenanced as it becomes increasingly unclear where responsibility lies.
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What to Watch
- Peace talks to end four years of war in Yemen could start as early as today in Sweden following agreements between Houthi rebels and the Saudi Arabia-backed government on a prisoner swap and medical treatment.
- As German Chancellor Angela Merkel's power ebbs following her decision to step down as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, senior officials worry that the succession battle could set off a bout of bloodletting in the nation's biggest party.
- General Motors Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra starts two days of meetings on Capitol Hill with lawmakers from states hit by the automaker’s plans to shed as many as 15,000 jobs and cancel production at five plants in North America.
And finally ... Protests by Facebook and Google have fallen on deaf ears in Australia's parliament, which is set to pass legislation allowing police and intelligence agencies to access encrypted messages on platforms such as WhatsApp. Tech companies could be forced to decrypt communications to help police obtain data, as Australia becomes the latest nation to stare down privacy concerns in the fight against terrorism and organized crime.
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