Boris Johnson Comes Out Swinging With Brussels

December 18, 2019 0 By HearthstoneYarns

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In the days since Boris Johnson’s U.K. election win, there’s been much talk as to whether the blustery campaigning prime minister would be replaced by a slightly softer, cuddlier version — that having secured a large mandate, he would adopt a more centrist, collaborative stance.

The signs are that not much will change. As parliament resumes, Johnson plans to bring his Brexit deal back for a vote with speed. And with a twist. As Tim Ross explains, the bill will now include a guarantee that the Brexit transition phase can’t be extended, setting up a new cliff-edge for a no-deal split with the European Union at the end of next year.

The time frame to negotiate new trading arrangements with the EU was always going to be tight, and fraught. Johnson is piling on the pressure in saying he won’t agree to any delay. Trade deals generally take years to finalize, even relatively simple versions. Some have taken decades.

We’ve seen Johnson use threats and deadlines before to force action. The EU will have an incentive to avoid a disorderly Brexit a year from now. But equally, it does want to keep the U.K. as bound as it can to its rules and regulations.

Johnson’s majority at home gives him wiggle room to push laws through. But that doesn’t mean Brussels will become a pushover.

Global Headlines

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The House Rules Committee plans what could be an all-day meeting to write the procedures for an impeachment debate and vote by the full House tomorrow.

Escalating threats | U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Turkey’s threats to close two critical NATO installations are raising questions about its commitment to the military alliance. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned yesterday of possible retaliation — including shuttering an early-warning radar at Kurecik and Incirlik Air Base — if the U.S. imposes sanctions over Ankara’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system.

Persistent protests | France faces chaos during the holiday season with a third week of transport strikes as unions and Emmanuel Macron’s government remain locked in a stalemate over the president’s drive to reform the national pension system. With negotiations suspended, the impasse runs the risk of upending the crown jewel of Macron’s effort to modernize the French social security apparatus.

Feeling the pain | Hong Kong’s economy is ending the year wounded, with the chances for stabilization in 2020 hanging on whether, or for how long, anti-government protests persist and how violent they are. Economists forecast a 1.3% contraction for 2019, although the government’s annual budget early next year may be a source of fresh stimulus.

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What to Watch

Israel is heading for its third election in less than a year, but the economy remains strong with growth around 3%. The U.S. House plans to vote on $1.4 trillion in spending bills needed to avert a government funding lapse on Saturday. South Africa will press the United Arab Emirates this week to sign an agreement that could be used to extradite members of the Gupta family to face corruption-related allegations in Johannesburg. Pakistan’s former dictator and president Pervez Musharraf was sentenced to death in absentia today, for imposing emergency rule and suspending the constitution in 2007.  Musharraf has been in Dubai since 2016.

Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at finally … Over a wide river and down a rutted, muddy track in the hills of Madagascar, impoverished farmers haggle with buyers from international corporations over a price for the most flamboyantly mercurial commodity on the planet: vanilla. Reporting from an auction marked by comedy and tragedy, as well as humanity and subterfuge, Monte Reel describes how the oily bean that makes its way into so many of our modern foods exposes the genius and insanity of globalized commerce.


–With assistance from Karl Maier, Kathleen Hunter and Ruth Pollard.

To contact the author of this story: Rosalind Mathieson in London at

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