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John Bercow. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

John Bercow, speaker of the U.K. House of Commons, said today that while there had been no formal request for President Trump to address Parliament, "nothing has happened since" 2017 — when Bercow cited "racism and sexism" in opposing such an invitation — to change his mind.

Why it matters: Trump will visit the U.K. next week. Bercow noted that while previous presidents had been invited to address Parliament, there was no "unbreakable norm." He said former President Obama, for example, had been "comparably popular" in Europe and the U.K., and a historic figure as America's first black president. Asked by Axios if he would have rejected a formal request from Buckingham Palace to invite Trump, Bercow said to answer would be "engaging in the odd hypothetical."

But, but, but: Speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington, Bercow conceded that there was a "powerful argument" that it was an error to invite Chinese President Xi Jinping to address Parliament in 2015. He said he had been "persuaded" that it would help an important relationship.

  • Bercow also said it was "probably not right" to allow the emir of Kuwait to address Parliament, in 2012.

The speaker also addressed Brexit, an issue that has fractured British politics like nothing else. He said that while the default position remained that the U.K. would leave the EU without an exit deal in October, "Parliament ... will have a lot to say on this matter" before that happens.

Between the lines: There's been speculation that if May is replaced by a hardline Brexiteer like Boris Johnson, as seems likely, the U.K. will be on course to crash out without a deal. Bercow said it was "quite wrong" to think such an outcome was inevitable.

As for his own future, Bercow said:

"Now is a time in which momentous events are taking place and there are great issues to be resolved and in those circumstances it doesn't seem to me to be sensible to vacate the chair. And if I had any intentions to announce on that matter... I would do so to Parliament first.

Go deeper

5 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.