U.K. Gripped by Trench Warfare Over Brexit
The respite is over in British politics, as Parliament returns and lawmakers are thrust straight into the Brexit quagmire. The next three months will shape the country’s history — one way or another — for years.
The U.K. is due to leave the European Union on March 29, and will crash out into legal limbo unless Prime Minister Theresa May can get politicians to back the Brexit agreement she negotiated with Brussels. But the concessions she promised to secure from the bloc haven’t (yet) materialized, and it looks likely her deal will be rejected when it goes to a parliamentary vote next week.
The battle lines are being drawn for what happens after that. More than 200 members of Parliament have written to May urging her to rule out a no-deal Brexit, while a cross-party group of high-profile lawmakers is trying to use a separate vote this week to make crashing out of the EU impossible without the approval of the House of Commons.
The campaign for a second referendum is also not going away, bolstered by a YouGov poll over the break that showed Remain would win if another vote was held now. At the moment, it’s an issue putting the most pressure on opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who looks unwilling to support another plebiscite despite growing demand from his members.
Meanwhile, May is plowing on, warning lawmakers they will plunge the country into “uncharted territory” if they rebuff her deal. It arguably already is.
Mueller report | The White House may try to block portions of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s final report from being shared with Congress and the public in a fight that could end up before the Supreme Court, Chris Strohm and Shannon Pettypiece exclusively report. The findings could come as soon as February.
Syrian turnaround | Donald Trump shocked the world in mid-December by unilaterally announcing a U.S. pullout from Syria, but it now looks like the White House is split and the president could be backtracking. Allies demand clarity, and his national security adviser John Bolton will be asked to provide answers when he meets Turkish officials in Ankara tomorrow.
U.S. allies feud | Relations between Japan and South Korea have always been tetchy, but Japan’s spokesman says they’re now in a “severe state.” The spat is over South Korea’s top court requiring two top Japanese companies to pay compensation to Koreans forced into labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule.
Royal ructions | Malaysia’s king has taken the unprecedented step of abdicating just two years into his five-year term, as rumors swirl that he married a former Miss Moscow late last year. A new king will be elected in the coming weeks.
Saudi deportation dispute | Thailand says it won’t deport a Saudi woman who claims to be fleeing abuse from her family and is staying inside Bangkok’s main airport while trying to transit to Australia. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has requested access to 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, and said Thai authorities must ensure her right to seek asylum is respected.
What to Watch:
And finally … While the U.K.’s defense secretary says Brexit is Britain's chance to be a “true global player once more” — including through military force — a new campaign to recruit soldiers has backfired. A poster declaring “Snowflakes — your country needs you — and your compassion” was meant to demonstrate the need for new recruits with “soft skills,” but the soldier chosen to be the face of the ad has reportedly threatened to quit. “Snowflake” is a derogatory one in the U.K. used to describe people who are overly sensitive.
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