Brexit on Trial as Johnson’s Plans Go To Court

Alan Crawford
Brexit on Trial as Johnson’s Plans Go To Court

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Another day, another chapter in the U.K.’s ongoing Brexit trauma.

Boris Johnson went to the European Union’s heartland yesterday in his bid to renegotiate a deal to leave the bloc. 

Over lunch in Luxembourg, outgoing EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker complained that London still hasn’t put forward any concrete proposals to warrant a smooth departure. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, gesturing at an empty podium after Johnson decided against briefing the press, blasted his British counterpart’s Brexit plans as “disastrous” for the U.K.

Johnson was “ambushed” by the EU’s second-smallest state, the Times of London harrumphed.

Such images may play well with Johnson’s pro-Brexit backers, who see the EU as treating the U.K. unfairly. The prime minister says he is “cautiously optimistic” agreement can be reached in time for the U.K. to leave the EU on Oct. 31 in an orderly fashion.

In addition to the poisonous atmosphere on the continent, Johnson faces a domestic legal test of his Brexit agenda, as the U.K. Supreme Court meets today to consider his decision to suspend Parliament.

Six weeks out from a departure date the prime minster insists he will keep, Johnson is assailed on all sides and — as far as the EU is concerned — a deal is no closer to being struck. That still leaves plenty of time for more ignominy.

Global Headlines

Weighing options | Donald Trump risks a political backlash if he retaliates against Iran over a weekend strike on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, especially after he campaigned in 2016 on promises to withdraw the U.S. from foreign wars. The prospect of military action in response to an attack that didn’t target Americans or even a country with which the U.S. has a defense treaty already is proving divisive in Washington and could hamper the president’s 2020 re-election bid.

The Saudi oil disruption might yet be the one thing that could distract Asia’s top powers from sparring over disputed territory and crimes committed during World War II.

Hot seat | Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager, will get a grilling from Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee today. White House lawyers have sought to limit how far lawmakers can go in their questioning, some of which will deal with Trump’s alleged efforts to obstruct Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. 

Backing the outsiders | A low-profile law professor and a controversial TV personality look set to compete in a run-off election to become Tunisia’s next president — a resounding rejection of the status quo in the birthplace of the Arab Spring. Interim figures show Kais Saied, a constitutional law expert supported by some of Tunisia’s disenchanted youth, in the lead after securing 18.8% of ballots counted, while Nabil Karoui, the owner of a TV channel who’s competing from prison, has 15.5%.

Losing faith | Global investors are starting to fall out of love with Narendra Modi. After pouring $45 billion into India’s stock market over the past six years on hopes the prime minister would unleash the country’s economic potential, international money managers are now unwinding those wagers at the fastest pace on record. They’ve sold $4.5 billion of Indian shares since June, on course for the biggest quarterly exodus since at least 1999.

Wong testifies | Prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong is set to address the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China, as lawmakers consider changes to special trade privileges for the financial hub. Embattled Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam pushed back today, saying sanctions would only complicate the city’s problems after more than three months of sometimes violent protests.

What to Watch

Israelis vote today in an election do-ever as a fiercely divided nation with no clear sign whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will retain his grip on power. Chinese officials are scheduled to travel to the U.S. this week to prepare for a meeting of top negotiators in October seeking to ease the trade war between the world’s two biggest economies. Spain’s King Felipe VI meets the main party leaders today to judge whether acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has enough support to form a government, averting the fourth general election in four years.

And finally ... The Solomon Islands has become the seventh nation — and the first in the Pacific — to break diplomatic ties with Taipei in favor of Beijing since 2016, leaving the democratically run island with just 16 diplomatic partners as China pushes forward with efforts to isolate it. Countries began to switch allegiance to China when Taiwan’s independence-leaning President Tsai Ing-wen was elected three years ago.


--With assistance from Karl Maier and Kathleen Hunter.

To contact the author of this story: Alan Crawford in Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at

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