May’s Brexit Stuck Between Brussels and Bercow

Anthony Halpin
May’s Brexit Stuck Between Brussels and Bercow

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May claims Brexit is about taking back control. Ten days before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union, it looks like anything but.

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow’s intervention, citing precedent dating back to 1604, to rule out a repeat vote on May’s already defeated departure deal leaves the prime minister exposed ahead of Thursday’s EU summit in Brussels.

Bercow, whose cries of “Orrdurrr! Orrdurrr!’’ to calm rowdy lawmakers have gained him a devoted international following, is now the pivotal figure in the Brexit battle. May’s team privately accuse him of trying to frustrate the U.K.’s exit from the EU, while the speaker’s admirers say he’s standing up for the rights of parliament against the executive.

If just one of the 27 other states declines May’s summit appeal to extend the divorce timetable, then the no-deal cliff edge looms for Britain’s departure on March 29. If they consent, it’s unclear how May can meet Bercow’s test that only a substantially different Brexit agreement merits another vote in parliament, since the EU insists it won’t reopen negotiations.

Caught between Bercow and Brussels, May’s room for maneuver is shrinking. Amid rumblings that their patience with the U.K. is near exhaustion, EU leaders are girding for the worst.

Global Headlines

Feeling the heat | The live-streaming of the massacre of 50 people in New Zealand on Facebook is building pressure on social-media platforms to stop hosting extremist violence and propaganda. Australia’s prime minister has urged the Group of 20 nations to use a meeting in June to discuss a crackdown, while New Zealand media reported the nation’s biggest banks have pulled their advertising from Facebook and Google.

Rouhani’s test | Iranians are coping with what increasingly feels like a wartime economy, Golnar Motevalli reports from Tehran, where renewed U.S. sanctions have slashed oil revenue, battered the rial and pushed prices beyond the reach of many. Shortages — of meat, medicine, even gasoline in some regions — are spreading. It's proof, say hard-line conservatives, that President Hassan Rouhani’s engagement with the West has failed.

AOC’s troubles | Democratic firebrand Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rode into the House railing against the influence of big money and hidden donors in U.S. elections, but now critics are crying hypocrisy. While most of her funds came from small donors, her campaign and two political action committees paid almost $900,000 to a consulting company, providing few details on how it was spent. She's called allegations of wrongdoing “bogus.”

Running dry | With its population expected to almost double to 2.5 billion by 2050 and more than half of its people living in urban areas by then, Africa is in danger of crippling water shortages. As Ekow Dontoh and Mike Cohen report, because the world’s poorest continent lacks the resources needed to address an infrastructure backlog, prospects look bleak.

Poland’s culture war | When you’re the self-proclaimed defender of a nation’s Christian values in what you see as a morally bankrupt Europe, you see enemies everywhere. As Marek Strzelecki and Dorota Bartyzel write, Poland’s populist government has vilified European Union elites, Muslim refugees, the Germans and anyone questioning Poland’s role in World War II. Now it says the latest threat comes from homosexuals, and it’s making opposition to gay rights a campaign cause.

And finally ... She may have been trying for irony, but Israel’s justice minister just won the prize for the most outrageous ad of the country’s campaign season: A mock perfume spot showing her spraying herself with a scent called “Fascism.” Ayelet Shaked of the nationalist New Right party, was taking a jab at critics who call her a fascist for trying to weaken the courts and strengthen the legislature. The product she’s pushing as she tosses her hair: Fascism by Ayelet Shaked. “To me, it smells like democracy,” she says in the tagline.


--With assistance from Gordon Bell.

To contact the author of this story: Anthony Halpin in Moscow at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Karl Maier at, Brendan Scott

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