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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The last 24 hours have seen the British government waging an internal war over Brexit — and, once again, it's forced Prime Minister Theresa May to face off with the pro-Brexit wing of her Conservative Party, led by Brexit Secretary David Davis.

What's at issue: The latest battle has been over the legal wording of a "backstop" trade deal after the U.K. leaves the EU. Conservatives pushing for a hard Brexit want that backstop time-limited, fearing that May's preferred option of an indefinite solution a supposed requirement for the EU — could leave the U.K. permanently attached to Europe.

  • Once again, the issue centers on the border between Northern Ireland (a constituent of the U.K.) and Ireland. When the U.K. officially exits the EU on March 29 next year, it's unlikely that the two will have worked out a comprehensive trade and customs solution. As a result, there is an agreed upon transition period to keep them economically aligned through December 2020. But should a deal still not be reached by that point, a "backstop" solution is needed in order to avoid a highly controversial hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

The problem: Brexiteers, those Conservatives who want a hard Brexit, are concerned that the "backstop" could remain in place indefinitely, essentially pushing off the effective date of the U.K. separating itself from the EU's economic rules. But May doesn't want to back herself into a corner — and the EU has also signaled that it may reject any "backstop" proposal with an end date.

The latest: May and Davis have publicly faced off over the last day on the issue — with rumors bubbling that that Davis may resign — but ultimately released a "backstop" proposal this morning with a December 2021 end date. That led Brexiteers to claim victory, saying that May had backed down on the issue.

What's next: It's up to Europe as the document now heads to the EU for inspection. While rejection is possible, it's just as likely that Brussels will view the time limit's deferential language as acceptable.

Go deeper

"Atmospheric river" swings Northern California from drought to flood

Satellite view of the bomb cyclone swirling off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and the atmospheric river affecting California on Oct. 24. Photo: CIRA/RAMMB

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are delivering historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest — triggering widespread power outages and flooding.

Why it matters: The strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is causing Northern California to whiplash from drought to flood.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Saudi dissident claims MBS said he could get "poison ring" to kill king

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Saudi Green Initiative Forum, via video link, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Saturday. Photo: Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A former senior Saudi intelligence official who worked with the U.S. on counterterrorism alleged to "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed in 2014 killing the kingdom's then-monarch.

Why it matters: The claim by the exiled Saad al-Jabri, whom Saudi authorities describe as "a discredited former government official," that the crown prince, known as "MBS," allegedly said he could obtain a "ring from Russia" to carry out the attack, is one of several serious but unproven allegations he made on the CBS show.

“You blew it”: GOP activist turns on corporations over vaccine mandates

The chairman of the American Conservative Union said on "Axios on HBO" he accepts "Joe Biden is my president, and I want him to succeed," but predicted Republicans retake the House and Senate in 2022 — with greater than 50% odds Donald Trump runs in 2024.

The big picture: In a joint interview with his wife, Mercedes, Matt Schlapp also refused to share their vaccination status. And he told corporate America "you blew it" by embracing vaccine mandates and liberal social stances that have alienated GOP voters and politicians.