Brexit’s Day of Decision Looms

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The fate of Brexit Withdrawal Agreement crafted by Theresa May and her European Union counterparts will be decided when the House of Commons votes on it Tuesday. The end result of tomorrow’s vote is not expected to favor May and the government. Opposition to the deal has not softened since May called off the vote last month. She could postpone the vote again if she wishes too, however, such a move would not help her cause at this point. She has staked the future of the government, as well as her own political future, on Tuesday’s outcome. If it goes in her favor, May will enjoy a major victory and walk away with a large amount of political capital in her pocket. Should the more likely opposite result come about, May will have to take her medicine, so to speak, and accept the results of the vote, and the consequences it brings about.

Those possible consequences are what have many Britons on edge at the moment. May’s government could collapse. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to file a no-confidence motion after the vote is held. This move could potentially bring about a new general election, though the chances of it going so far are small. Other potential scenarios include a new Brexit referendum, a disorderly UK withdrawal from the EU, or a complete scrapping of the Brexit process. May can also try for another vote in the future, although this step should be avoided entirely as it would drop the British political system, and economy into a extended period of uncertainty that neither can afford to weather.

The Brexit crisis in Britain at the moment represents a point where contemporary global political trends have clashed. Populism, protectionism, and nationalism squaring off against globalism and pluralism in a contest that has created a stalemate closely resembling the Western Front in World War I. Whatever comes about following tomorrow’s vote will have a lasting impact on the United Kingdom, and the European Union. This much is certain.

Theresa May Facing No Confidence Vote

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May returns to Downing Street in London

The blowback from Theresa May’s decision to postpone a vote on the Brexit deal in the House of Commons might very well end up sweeping her from power. As the Prime Minister spent the day in Brussels attempting to gin up EU support for revisions to the deal, Tory MPs were busy in London laying the groundwork for a no confidence vote. The EU leaders who have met with May on her trip so far have not been receptive to the idea of modifying the deal in order to make it more acceptable to Britons, and help its pass through the House of Commons.

May appears to be fighting her war on the wrong front. Instead of looking to the continent for a lifeline of some kind, she need to be focused on the battle brewing in London. Monday’s postponement left a bad taste in the mouths of many MPs, most of whom were already souring on May’s leadership. Her motivation for postponing the vote was to avoid a humiliating defeat that might derail her politically. Unfortunately, May did not consider her dilemma from all angles. Even though she succeeded in delaying the vote on the deal, doing so sparked a mobilization of her opponents both within and outside of her party.

At Westminster tonight, there has been considerable speculation that the 48 letters required to trigger a no confidence vote have been received. If this proves to be true, Britain could find itself looking for a new PM by the end of the week.

Vote on Brexit Deal Postponed

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Theresa May saw the writing on the wall. Her Brexit deal was not going to survive a Parliament vote in any way, shape, or form. So she did what any conscious politician would do: she reversed course. After three days of insisting that the vote would move forward as scheduled on 11 December, May postponed the vote today. She will hold talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, followed by discussions with EU officials about the future of the deal. EU leadership has staunchly insisted that there will be no alterations to the EU deal. If this remains the case, May might be forced to allow a vote. If the deal is not approved, Britain’s final break from the EU in March, 2019 will be a hard one. The United Kingdom will lose virtually all of its political and economic connections with the EU. The relationship between the two will change irrevocably, and it will happen virtually overnight.

Both sides have stated repeatedly that they do not want that scenario to become the reality. Yet actions speak louder than words, and neither side has backed up their statements with actions that will head off a hard break come March. The coming days should give us a glimpse into the future, and leave the world with a good idea about what direction Brexit is headed in.

 

Authors Note: Short update tonight, I apologize. I’ll back it up with more on Brexit tomorrow, and later on this week as things unfold in London and Brussels.

A Look Around the World: 3 December, 2018

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Late November and early December have been an active geopolitical period across the globe. Following the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires yesterday, the world’s attention is shifting back to the ongoing crisis in the Ukraine, US-China relations, and the upcoming vote in the British House of Commons on Theresa May’s Brexit Deal. Below is a brief summary of where each situation stands respectively, and what can be potentially be expected to happen with them in the coming week or so.

 

Ukraine

The strain in relations between Kiev and Moscow continues following the 25 November incident at the mouth of the Sea of Azov when Russia seized three Ukrainian ships, and 24 sailors. The Ukrainian sailors will face border violation charges from Russian authorities, and Moscow does not appear ready to consider their release anytime soon.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko today announced the call-up of reservists for training. Poroshenko has been warning of a possible Russian invasion coming in the near future, pointing to evidence of Russian forces massing near the border as proof. His alleged evidence has not been refuted or confirmed by outside sources, although US RC-135s and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones have been active over the Black Sea, and Ukrainian territory since the 25 November incident. If Russia was mobilizing its forces near the border, Washington would’ve likely informed the world of it by now.

Martial law is still in effect across large portions of the Ukraine. This will continue at least until the end of December, and perhaps beyond then.

The Russia-Ukraine crisis is expected to be discussed at length on Tuesday at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels.

 

US-China Relations

Over the weekend at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aries, President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to an agreement to halt future trade tariffs from being put into place after 1 January, 2019. Global markets have responded well to the temporary truce with Asia, Europe, and New York all reporting gains. The major question now is what will come next. If the truce holds firm and can be expanded, the prospect of a greater understanding between Beijing and Washington on other issues will become possible.

Xi and Trump seem to have a good personal relationship, yet neither leader has allowed it to blur the national interests of their respective nations. China is continuing its military buildup in the South China Sea, and actively harassing US warships and aircraft that transit the airspace and waters near its declared territory there. The US continues to champion freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, and its frequent FON exercises there are held to emphasize the US commitment to the principle.

 

Theresa May’s Brexit Deal

11 December could very well be the make-or-break moment for British Prime Minister Theresa May’s political fortunes. The House of Commons will deliver its verdict on the post-Brexit agreement that May and European Union leaders signed off on last month. Opposition to the deal has been steadily rising in the UK. Even though May’s cabinet signed off on the agreement there’s been dissention in the ranks with some cabinet members resigning as a result of the agreement.

In short, many Britons feel the agreement gives too much to the European Union in exchange for the UK receiving nothing in return. Following Brexit, the UK would remain tethered to EU in a sense, and that defeats the entire purpose of the Brexit referendum.  As it stands right now, May does not have enough votes in her pocket to get it through Parliament. She has some time remaining, although its unclear if it will be enough time to reverse her fortunes.

The bigger question looming is; what will happen if the agreement fails to get through Parliament?

UK Political Turmoil Threatens Brexit Deal

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The week started on a good note for British Prime Minister Theresa May. She reached an agreement with the European Union on a Brexit withdrawal draft deal, after months of obstacles and uncertainty. Yesterday, her cabinet gave its support to the deal.

Shortly afterward, May’s fortunes took a turn for the worse.

Two cabinet ministers, and two junior ministers resigned from their positions over the terms of the draft agreement. In Parliament, some Conservative members are moving to force a leadership contest. The road ahead will be a challenging one for May. If the British Parliament does not approve the draft May is likely dead politically. It also opens the possibility of the UK leaving the Union without an exit deal in place, a worst-case scenario that economists warn could plunge Britain into a recession.

It certainly seems as if May’s announcement was premature and is acting as a beacon to unite the elements in the government that are opposed to her handling of the Brexit divorce negotiations. The PM is standing firm though. She believes this deal is the best avenue for making Brexit a reality, and has stated her intent to see it through. Despite May’s resolve, the financial markets are growing jittery at the prospect of this deal not making it through Parliament. Sterling fell 1.7% against the dollar and 1.9% against the euro on Wednesday, and shares in UK banks have experienced a sharp fall too.

The political volatility in Britain is causing great unease in Brussels, and across the union. Events in Britain hold the very real chance of disrupting or wrecking the deal before the EU-UK Summit to be held on 25 November. It is at this summit meeting where May and EU officials were expected to make the deal official. The summit might not even occur, given the way things are going.

A lot can happen between now and the summit date to tilt the balance in May’s favor. Unfortunately, if the mutiny in her cabinet grows, it makes a leadership contest in Parliament appear more probable.