Brexit, Wikileaks’ Time In The Barrel, And A Win For The Fourth Estate
The UK is divided as the reality of Brexit sets in, Julian Assange looks to be in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sights, and Jim Acosta and CNN score a major win.
Today’s top stories:
1. British Prime Minister Theresa May has made the proverbial hop from the frying pan into the fire this week. After heated negotiations with the EU reached a preliminary deal, she immediately faced the fire and fury of her own party and cabinet. Two of her cabinet ministers and a few junior ministers resigned shortly after a deal was announced, and Brexit hardliners in her right wing Tory party have now called for a vote of no confidence in Theresa May. If she loses the vote, she will have to step down from office; she may have to seek votes from the opposition Labour party to keep her job and ensure a deal is done before a deadline in March. The recent news has seen the pound fall sharply as a result.
Brexiteers are particularly miffed at a proposed backstop measure concerning the border between UK’s Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, an EU country. The EU and the UK want to work out a way to ensure there is no hard border placed between the two countries, so agreed to enact a measure to keep the UK in the EU customs union until a permanent solution can be reached. Opponents, however, claim this just keeps the UK in the EU against the wishes of the 2016 referendum, and without much say within the union to boot.
The backlash against May’s deal underscores anger from Brexit proponents over a creeping realization that they won’t be having their crumpets and eating them too. Brexit was sold to them as an opportunity to take charge of their own affairs, particularly their border, make deals with the rest of the world, and not have to deal with the eurocrats in Brussels (the de facto capital of the EU.) They would still get all the access to the single market they wanted, the thinking went, without any of the restrictions, because the UK’s economic and political clout would make the EU rush to give them any deal they wanted. The deal Mrs. May is bringing home proves this will not be the case. Far from charting its own path, the UK has little leverage over a much larger EU unified in its resolve not to let it pick and choose the rules it wants to follow. And without access to the single market, its ability to attract other trade deals is significantly diminished. Brexiteers can blame May all they want, but they made their bed and must now lie in it.
2. Julian Assange will be charged by American prosecutors, a court filing mistakenly including his name has revealed. The exact charges have still not been revealed, but the WikiLeaks founder has been on the radar of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation due to his posting of Democratic emails stolen from Russian intelligence agents during the 2016 election. An Assange case would make for some strange bedfellows. On one hand, Assange enjoys the support of both some on the left who see him as simply a journalist publishing the truth and President Trump and the rest of the “MAGA” gang for posting information that aided his campaign. On the other are people from both sides of the aisle who view Assange as a national security threat and disseminator of propaganda.
3. The island nation of Sri Lanka has descended into constitutional chaos and even parliamentary violence over the president’s attempt to fire his prime minister and replace him with a former leader and one-time rival. Earlier this week, President Maithripala Sirisena removed Ranil Wickremesinghe from office and replaced him with Mahinda Rajapaksa. Rajapaksa was president for a decade and ruled Sri Lanka with a family political machine, until Sirisena, his former health minister, and Wickremesinghe joined forces to defeat him in 2015. He is also known for his brutal crackdown during a separatist war with the Tamil Tigers which killed over 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians. Sirisena moved to install Rajapaksa as prime minister after a fallout with Wickremesinghe and his party, following losses to Rajapaksa’s party in local elections earlier this year.
Supporters of Wickremesinghe decry the action as unconstitutional and passed a no-confidence measure on Wednesday. However, Rajapaksa refused to accept the vote, so another was called today. This time, Rajapaksa’s supporters started a brawl on the parliament floor in order to prevent the voting form going forward, throwing chili paste, books and chairs around in an effort from preventing the speaker to call the vote. The speaker did eventually do so, under heavy armed guard, and more than half of the body still voted against Rajapaksa. It is far from clear whether this will resolve the matter, however.
4. There are more developments in regards to weapons testing in North Korea. The official North Korean government mouthpiece reported a successful test of what it calls an “ultramodern tactical weapon.” No details were provided, but a Yonhap News Agency, a South Korean newspaper, is reporting that it is believed to be a long-range artillery weapon. If correct, this would be a more conventional weapons test and one that would be ostensibly done so that dictator Kim Kong-Un can show his people that the country is still a military power. Still, with negotiations between the Hermit Kingdom and the US stalling, it is easy to see this development as a bellicose message from Kim to American and South Korean counterparts. Recent reports have also indicated that North Korea is maintaining secret missile bases.
5. Now, for some good news. A court yesterday ruled that the White House must reinstate CNN reporter Jim Acosta’s press pass. We have obtained footage of CNN’s statement to the White House following the ruling: