While we’re tracking the approach of the British Parliament’s coming vote on Brexit, we enlisted Ellen Barry, our London-based chief international correspondent, to take over the top of your daily briefing. Let us know what you think.
One indication of just how weird things have gotten for the British government is a scene that appeared on a Thursday evening news broadcast.
It involved the prime minister’s chief whip, a much-feared party enforcer who, by long tradition, steers clear of the news media. (One recent occupant of the post kept a live tarantula named Cronus on his desk.)
In the video, however, the whip — with body language that can best be described as plaintive — is making his case to a recalcitrant Conservative lawmaker.
Their exchange is along these lines:
Whip: “Are you feeling any better about the deal on Tuesday? Have we got your support?”
Lawmaker: “In a word.”
So that’s where we are. With four days to go until Parliament votes on the government’s plan to leave the E.U., Prime Minister Theresa May and her increasingly desperate team are scrambling to persuade hard-line Brexiteers that her compromise is the best they’re going to get. This means they must let go of whatever vision they had of an ideal outcome, a process one of her allies has described as “shooting the unicorns.”
This is a familiar challenge in negotiations. Game theorists like to use the example of the conquistador Hernán Cortés, who in 1519 attacked the coast of Mexico with a small force. To ensure that Spanish troops would not retreat in the face of a large Aztec counterattack, Cortés ordered them to burn their ships, leaving them no alternative to victory in battle.
“She should say, ‘Dear Brexiteers, your ships are burning, they are gone,’” Marcus Schreiber, an economist who uses game theory to advise executives on negotiations, said of Mrs. May.
More than 100 Conservative lawmakers have said they will vote against her deal on Tuesday, but Downing Street is betting that many will get on board rather than propel the country toward a “no deal” exit. Various news reports indicated that her party allies had tried but failed to persuade her to delay the vote.
If Mrs. May’s proposal loses narrowly, a tweaked version of the deal might pass. If it loses by more than 100 votes, her days as prime minister could be numbered.
Meanwhile, the grievances about Britain’s two-tiered economy that inspired the Brexit movement in the first place remain unaddressed.
Our reporter Ben Mueller traveled to Sunderland, a deprived northern city that served as a bellwether on referendum day, voting 61 percent to 39 percent to leave the E.U. He found many voters in a sour mood, frustrated that Mrs. May’s deal would not deliver the windfall that northerners were promised during the campaign.
“The City of London’s protected at all costs,” said one man, bitterly, “but that’s no good for us on the outposts of England.”
See you on Monday. — Ellen
The undocumented immigrants serving Trump
President Trump, who has made border security and the fight to protect American jobs a cornerstone of his presidency, has a history of relying on immigrants at his golf and hotel properties. Now two women who worked for years at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., tell The New York Times that the club’s staff has included a number of undocumented workers.
One of the women, Victorina Morales of Guatemala, said she was hurt by Mr. Trump’s public comments about immigrants since he became president.
“We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money,” said Ms. Morales, whose duties include making the president’s bed and cleaning his toilet.
Here’s what else is happening
The Huawei arrest: The detention of a Chinese tech executive in Canada — part of the Trump administration’s efforts to contain China and enforce sanctions on Iran — threatens to worsen a trade war between China and the U.S., the world’s two largest economies. European and Asian stocks plunged on Thursday.
‘Golden visas’ suspended: As of today, the British government is suspending a visa introduced in 2008 to attract foreign nationals willing to invest a minimum of $2.5 million. Those visas will remain suspended until the Home Office introduces tighter restrictions to tackle corruption and organized crime.
Yemen peace talks: The country’s warring sides agreed to exchange at least 5,000 prisoners as peace talks began in Sweden over a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of civilians and pushed millions to the brink of famine.
Migrants lose a lifeline: The medical charity Doctors Without Borders said that interference by European governments had forced it to end rescue operations in the Mediterranean by its ship Aquarius, which has saved many shipwrecked migrants from drowning.
France’s concession: The government’s cancellation of a fuel tax increase in the wake of violent protests illustrates how challenging it can be for governments to fight global warming by taxing carbon. (More protests are planned for Saturday, and the Eiffel Tower is to close amid fears of further violence.)
Ireland’s stance on abortion: Lawmakers in the Irish parliament’s lower house passed a bill introducing free and legal abortion, seven months after voters repealed a constitutional ban from 1983.
A scandal in Iceland: A group of politicians who were secretly recorded in a bar using sexist and obscene language are facing a public firestorm in a country that prides itself on its gender equality.
Drama at the U.N.: In a blow to the U.S., the U.N. General Assembly declined to take the unprecedented step of condemning the Islamic militant group Hamas for violence against Israel.
Oil production: Saudi Arabia is poised to push OPEC to cut production by a million barrels a day — roughly 1 percent of the global oil supply — as a way to balance the markets.
Transit milestone: Luxembourg, with a population of about 560,000, plans by 2020 to become the first country to offer free mass transit for all.
You may have read that the Bank of England is looking for a new face for its 50-pound note (about $65).
There have been many suggestions: the former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, the mathematician Alan Turing and the physicist Stephen Hawking.
One lesser-known name caught our attention: Noor Inayat Khan, who spied for Britain during World War II.
Ms. Khan wasn’t what one would expect of a British spy. She was born a princess to Indian royalty, and she was a musician and a writer. But she spoke French and had excellent radio skills. She became the first female radio operator sent by Britain into occupied France.
She did the work of six radio operators, moving constantly and dyeing her hair blond to avoid detection. Her work became crucial to the war effort.
Ms. Khan never made it home; she was captured and executed at the Dachau concentration camp in 1944. She was 30.
Amie Tsang, who works in our London office, wrote today’s Back Story. Mike Ives helped write today’s briefing.
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