Aug 15, 2019

Brexit countdown: The scramble to build barriers to Boris

Boris Johnson visits the Fusion Energy Research Centre at the Culham Science Centre on August 8, 2019 in Abingdon, England. Photo: Julian Simmonds - WPA Pool/Getty Images

Boris Johnson has ordered the U.K.'s civil service to make preparations for a no-deal Brexit its "top priority," a directive that comes the same week the government has reportedly drawn up plans to stop British diplomats from attending EU meetings.

Why it matters: 3 weeks into his premiership, Johnson appears hell-bent on fulfilling the campaign promise that paved his path to Downing Street: delivering Brexit on Oct. 31, "do or die."

  • The problem? There is no parliamentary majority for a no-deal Brexit, which carries potential consequences ranging from recession to drug shortages to the slaughter of millions of sheep.
  • That has Parliament, which returns from recess on Sept. 3, plotting ways to stop Johnson and the runaway Brexit train.

Option #1 is a legislative fix forcing the government to seek another extension from the EU. But with no amendable Brexit bills on the agenda, MPs don't have a clear mechanism to pass binding legislation.

  • Johnson's top adviser, Dominic Cummings, has also suggested Johnson could suspend Parliament to get Brexit over the line.
  • Commons Speaker John Bercow vowed to fight such a move with "every bone in my body."

Option #2 is a vote of no-confidence brought by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, which would give MPs a window of 14 days to form a caretaker government with the express purpose of blocking no-deal.

  • There would likely be a majority for a so-called "government of national unity" — if not for the contempt many MPs have for Corbyn. Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said Thursday that she'd do "whatever it takes" to stop a no-deal ... but she won't do that.
  • Even if there was a majority, the Machiavellian Cummings has suggested Johnson isn't legally required to resign after losing a no-confidence vote, and would instead hold a "people vs. politicians" general election — after Brexit on Oct. 31.

That leads us to Option #3: The 93-year-old, historically apolitical Queen Elizabeth II is the only person with the absolute authority to sack Johnson and stop a no-deal.

  • A royal intervention would be dramatic (and a boon for Netflix as it launches season 3 of The Crown), but it's highly unlikely.

Go deeper: Nancy Pelosi rules out U.K. trade deal if Brexit creates hard Irish border

Go deeper

Biden formally secures Democratic presidential nomination

Joe Biden speaks at Delaware State University's student cente on June 5. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden became the formal Democratic presidential nominee on Friday evening, per AP.

The big picture: Biden has been the presumptive frontrunner to take on President Trump since Sen. Bernie Sanders suspended his campaign in early April.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 6,724.516 — Total deaths: 394,018 — Total recoveries — 2,996,832Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9 p.m. ET: 1,894,753 — Total deaths: 109,042 — Total recoveries: 491,706 — Total tested: 19,231,444Map.
  3. Public health: WHCA president says White House violated social-distancing guidelines to make reporters "a prop" — Jailing practices contribute to spread.
  4. Sports: How coronavirus could reshuffle the sports calendar.
  5. Jobs: Better-than-expected jobs report boosts stock market.
  6. Media: The Athletic lays off 8% of staff, implements company-wide pay cut.

Scoop: German foreign minister to travel to Israel with warning on annexation

Heiko Maas. Photo: Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is expected to travel to Israel next week to warn that there will be consequences if Israeli leaders move forward with plans to annex parts of the West Bank, Israeli officials and European diplomats tell me.

Why it matters: Israeli and European officials agree that if Israel goes ahead with unilateral annexation, the EU will respond with sanctions.