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Expert Voices

Key questions unresolved in May's latest Brexit speech

British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers her latest Brexit speech at Mansion House on March 2, 2018, in London, England.
British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers her latest Brexit speech at Mansion House on March 2, 2018, in London, England. Photo: Jonathan Brady / WPA Pool / Getty Images

In her address last Friday about Britain’s impending withdrawal from the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May failed to present a compelling vision for post-Brexit Europe. To lay the groundwork for trade negotiations in Brussels, the speech needed to meet three objectives but accomplished one at most.

May’s goals:

  1. Satisfy the two wings of her party, the pro-European Conservatives and the militant Brexiteers. May had modest success on that score, as both sides gave her speech a cautious welcome. But each wing wants May to pull May further in its own direction, a tension that will only increase in the months ahead.
  2. Resolve the future economic relationship between the U.K. and the EU.
  3. Clarify the U.K.’s larger goals. The question May has consistently dodged is how much autonomy is she prepared to surrender post-Brexit to keep a close trading relationship with the rest of the European Union.

May failed to meet either of her last objectives. On the economy, she expressed her desire for “frictionless” trade with the EU, but rejected the existing means that EU members currently use to achieve this. In a further display of indecision, May dropped her support of “binding commitments” to EU rules, which implies legally enforceable arrangements, opting instead for “strong” commitments, which implies no such thing. Discussion of the UK’s larger objectives was similarly muddled.

What’s next: The U.K. is due to leave the EU next March. To meet that deadline, members must agree to a deal by October. Since the EU insists that at least six months are needed to sort out the economic, technical and legal issues (still an optimistic time frame), that leaves only one month before negotiations must begin.

Peter Kellner is a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe.

Khorri Atkinson 1 hour ago
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NYT: Mueller witness tried to influence White House on Gulf states

Interviews and previously undisclosed documents revealed that a witness in Robert Mueller's probe had worked for over a year to convert a Republican fundraiser into a White House influencer to help usher in deals on behalf of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the New York Times reports.

The backdrop: George Nader, a political adviser of the U.A.E. and Elliott Broidy, the RNC's deputy finance chair, reportedly urged the White House to dismiss Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's support of combative approaches to Iran and Qatar. In another case, Nader promised Broidy over a $1 billion in contracts for his private security company in exchange for deals.

David Philips 3 hours ago
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Expert Voices

Russian obstruction on Syria at UN Security Council demands response

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein speaking during a press conference at the UN Offices in Geneva.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein. Photo: Fabrice Coffrini / AFP via Getty Images

Russia used a procedural vote on Monday to prevent UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein from presenting on human rights conditions in Syria to the UN Security Council (UNSC).

Why it matters: To date, Russia has vetoed nine resolutions aimed at intensifying pressure on Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, moves that not only counter U.S. interests but undermine the international system.