Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

The key players in Brexit negotiations have finally begun to outline their visions of the end game this week, ahead of a widely anticipated speech tomorrow from Prime Minister Theresa May.

The state of play: The European Union issued its draft agreement for Brexit yesterday, elements of which have been rejected outright by May's government. Meanwhile intraparty disputes over Brexit are as much of a worry for May as international ones.

The EU's draft

Late last year, the U.K. and EU announced that they had reached a critical "phase one" deal, which injected some life into May's ailing premiership. But the draft issued yesterday apparently tossed aside those earlier agreements, throwing Brexit negotiations into another round of chaos.

Three big issues with the draft:

  1. Northern Ireland: The EU's draft keeps Northern Ireland inside the EU's customs union after Brexit, which eliminates the need to institute a hard border with Ireland but places an economic border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. Given that May's coalition government is only afloat via votes from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, this proposed arrangement won't fly. Indeed, May stated yesterday that "no U.K. prime minister could ever agree" to it.
  2. Trade deals during the transition: The draft agreement prohibits the U.K. “from any action or initiative which is likely to be prejudicial to the Union’s interest" during the transition period, which could mean that it wouldn't be able to negotiate its own free-standing trade deals during that period.
  3. Free movement of people: It also allows for EU free movement laws to apply throughout the course of the transition period, something May expressly shot down last month, stating that EU citizens who entered the U.K. after Brexit Day in March 2019 shouldn't expect full rights “because they will be coming to a U.K. that they know will be outside the EU”.
May's speech

The big thing: She's intent on removing the U.K. from both the EU's single market and customs union, which would give the U.K. the freedom to negotiate its own trade deals worldwide.

The strategy: May took a number of key Cabinet members to Chequers, the prime minister's traditional country hideaway, last week to hash out their Brexit disagreements. They arrived on a strategy described as "ambitious managed divergence," per the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg.

  • That policy essentially means that May will call for the U.K. to accept EU rules and regulations "on a voluntary basis" during the transition. That's a strategy that likely won't be accepted by the EU — which sees it as "cherry picking" some of the benefits of EU membership without upholding its most crucial obligations.
  • She's taking her plan to her full Cabinet today in order to sure up support before tomorrow's decisive speech.
The dissenting voices

From the left: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn laid down the gauntlet for May in his own Brexit policy speech on Monday, calling for "a new, comprehensive U.K.-EU customs union" after Brexit. That decision firmly set the Labour Party apart from May's Conservatives — and his speech gained support from key members of the business community.

From the center: Corbyn's proposal opened the door for Brexit-skeptic Conservatives to break with their own party — given May's slim majority following last summer's electoral disaster — and side with Labour. That possibility has left May and her government scrambling to see if an allied Labour-Conservative parliamentary vote in favor of a customs union would actually be legally binding, per The Guardian.

From the right: From the other flank of May's own party, arch-conservative Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who heads the powerful anti-EU European Research Group, blasted a leaked government document that largely jives with the EU's draft agreement as a "perversion of democracy". In characteristic style, he blasted May's "divergence" strategy — indeed, anything less than a hard Brexit — in the Telegraph:

"When we leave the EU on 29th March next year we need not continue to behave as if we were still a member.  That would make us a vassal state and there have been no vassals in this country since the era of the Plantagenets."

From the past: Former Conservative prime minister John Major gave a speech yesterday calling for the "option" for a second referendum on Brexit given that it is set to "hurt most those who have the least." He took a direct jab at May's lack of coherent policy thus far, saying, "With only 12 months to go, we need answers, not aspirations."

Go deeper

Scoop: Border officials project 13,000 child migrants in May

The "El Chaparral" border crossing at Tijuana. Photo: Stringer/Picture Alliance via Getty Images

A Customs and Border Protection staffer told top administration officials Thursday the agency is projecting a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May, sources directly familiar with the discussion told Axios.

Why it matters: That projection would exceed the height of the 2019 crisis, which led to the infamous "kids-in-cages" disaster. It also underscores a rapidly escalating crisis for the Biden administration.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. strikes Iran-backed militia facilities in Syria

President Biden at the Pentagon on Feb. 10. Photo: Alex Brandon - Pool/Getty Images

The United States on Thursday carried out an airstrike against facilities in Syria linked to an Iran-backed militia group, the Pentagon announced.

The state of play: The strike, approved by President Biden, comes "in response to recent attacks against American and Coalition personnel in Iraq, and to ongoing threats to those personnel," Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

Senate parliamentarian rules $15 minimum wage cannot be included in relief package

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

The Senate parliamentarian ruled Thursday that the provision to increase the minimum wage to $15/hour cannot be included in the broader $1.9 trillion COVID relief package.

Why it matters: It's now very likely that any increase in the minimum wage will need bipartisan support, as the provision cannot be passed with the simple Senate majority that Democrats are aiming to use for President Biden's rescue bill.