While we’re tracking the approach of the British Parliament’s vote on Brexit, we enlisted our London-based correspondent Ellen Barry to take over the top of your daily briefing. Let us know what you think.
In five days, the British Parliament will finally have a chance to vote on the withdrawal deal that Prime Minister Theresa May, after an ulcer-inducing two years of shuttle diplomacy, brokered with the European Union. What happens if, as is widely expected, her deal is rejected by a sizable margin?
The technical term, my informants in Westminster tell me, is “absolute chaos.”
Up to this point, the fate of Brexit was between two relatively predictable players, Britain and the E.U. Now it lies in the hands of a fragmented Parliament, with clusters of lawmakers fiercely committed to disparate solutions — halting Brexit altogether, leaving the E.U. without a deal or using this crisis to kick out Mrs. May’s Conservative government.
On a podcast I listened to Wednesday morning, Henry Zeffman, a politics reporter at The Times of London, described trying to sketch out possible outcomes on the back of an envelope, switching to a larger envelope, and throwing up his hands. “I thought, superficially, ‘Oh, O.K., this is relatively straightforward,’ and suddenly I was overwhelmed — my artistic and design skills are not brilliant, and there were lines going in all sorts of directions between boxes of all sorts of shapes and sizes,” he said.
All of which is to say: Don’t worry if you’re confused. At the London bureau of The New York Times, we sweat paracetamol.
If Mrs. May’s plan is voted down on Tuesday, five things could happen.
(1) She could go back to Brussels later in the week and negotiate face-saving changes to the current plan; (2) the government could pivot to a softer Brexit known as the “Norway model”; (3) the government could plunge toward a “no-deal” Brexit, with potentially severe economic costs; (4) the country could hold a second referendum, risking the fury of the 52 million Britons who voted to leave the E.U.; or (5) the country could hold a new election.
Thursday is the third of five days of debate in Parliament leading up to the vote. Since the proceedings are streamed live (right here), it is a good opportunity for newcomers to eavesdrop on the House of Commons. It features a hilariously pompous speaker, John Bercow — “It is a point so blindingly obvious that only an extraordinarily clever and sophisticated person could fail to grasp it,” he once chided a member — and a braying, mooing barnyard symphony of partisan heckling noises.
Mrs. May, nothing if not dogged, has weathered rounds of pummeling since mid-November, when she made her withdrawal agreement public.
But her power over the process ebbed away this week, when rebel lawmakers defeated the government in three successive votes — something that hasn’t happened in 40 years. She has only a few days left to make her case for compromise, and Parliament doesn’t appear to be in the mood.
See you tomorrow. — Ellen
Taking stock of Angela Merkel’s leadership
No one has shaped today’s Europe more than Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, who has led her country for 13 years and steered the continent through successive crises.
But as Ms. Merkel’s party, the Christian Democrats, gathers this week to choose her successor as party leader, some are asking whether her decisions to embrace more than a million asylum seekers and impose harsh economic austerity on European neighbors — especially Greece — helped plant the seeds of the forces now tearing Europe apart.
“I know my face is polarizing,” she said during a recent visit to an eastern German city where far-right protests broke out this year.
Here’s what else is happening
Khashoggi fallout: Turkish prosecutors filed arrest warrants for two senior Saudi officials close to the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, accusing them of masterminding the killing of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
Seismology is a well-developed field. It’s the source of much of our knowledge about the Earth’s own innards.
An earthquake’s vibrations run around and through the planet, speeding up, slowing down, bending — all depending on the properties of the material they pass through.
Data from seismic monitors around the world are the foundation for the understanding we have now of the Earth’s structure: a solid inner core, surrounded by a liquid outer core, inside a thick viscous layer known as the mantle, under a thin rocky crust.
InSight will monitor marsquakes from just one location. The instrument should be able to identify a vibration that has circled Mars multiple times, and clever analysis should yield the equivalent of data from multiple stations.
Kenneth Chang, who covers NASA for The Times, wrote today’s Back Story. Mike Ives helped write today’s briefing.
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