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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With Brexit talks still deadlocked, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has been forced to admit she may need more time to finalize a divorce agreement with the EU.

The bottom line: "May is under increasing pressure from her colleagues to take a tougher line, but in reality she is going to have to accept more compromises to broker any deal with Brussels," the FT's Sebastian Payne emails. "The outlines of a withdrawal agreement are clear. Now it is all about the tricky politics of selling it to a cabinet, party and country that are running out of patience."

The key remaining issue is what will happen on the border between Northern Ireland, a constituent of the U.K., and the Republic of Ireland. A "hard" border could have implications not only for economics, but for peace. But the EU's terms for a "soft" border don't past muster with many in Northern Ireland and May's Conservative Party.

Payne says that May "went to Brussels this week desperate for a Brexit breakthrough and left empty-handed."

  • "She has now suggested extending the so-called 'transition' phase, in which the U.K. remains closely tied to the bloc but with no say in its laws and regulations. She hopes that this will give her the political space to advance her proposals for the future of the Irish border and make progress on a long-term free trade deal. "
  • The problem: "Her party’s already skeptical members of parliament are very skeptical of her plan."
  • "Negotiations will pick up again shortly, but May's breakthrough won't come until the Irish border conundrum is resolved. EU negotiators are standing firm, knowing that time is on their side and the U.K. will suffer more if it leaves the bloc next March without a formal agreement. The markets have yet to wake up to the real prospect of a messy 'no-deal' exit. If they do, it could focus the minds of the prime minister and her party."

Peter Foster, the Telegraph's Europe Editor, has this withering analysis of where things went wrong for May:

  • "Right from the start... when she made herself hostage to totally unrealistic promises on completely leaving the single market, customs union and European Court of Justice, May has failed to explain that the Brexit process must be taken one step at a time."
  • "It could have been conceived as a series of ‘lily-pads’ to take us safely to the other side of the pond. Instead the fantasy of a giant leap was preserved. ... This indeed, is the story of the political mishandling of Brexit. A catalogue of desperate denials many of which have, over time, turned out to be false."

Meanwhile, Stephen Paduano argues in Foreign Policy that "Britain isn’t just losing Brexit. Europe is winning it."

"The biggest winners of Brexit — Dublin, Frankfurt, and Paris — have proved to be at least as effective at pulling business in as the Brexiteers have been at pushing business out."

Go deeper

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

3 hours ago - World

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.

Sullivan speaks with Israel's national security adviser for the first time

Israeli national security adviser Meir Ben Shabbat U.S. Photo: Mazen Mahdi/Getty Images. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Photo: Chandan Khanna/Getty Images

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke on the phone Saturday with his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben Shabbat, Israeli officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: This is the first contact between the Biden White House and Israeli prime minister's office. During the transition, the Biden team refrained from speaking to foreign governments.

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