The European Commission has set out its red lines for Brexit in a draft agreement:
- Northern Ireland: Would remain in the EU customs union, creating the need for an economic border in the Irish Sea.
- Free movement: Continued free movement of EU nationals during the post-Brexit transition period.
- Trade deals: Also during the transition, Britain would not be allowed to initiate or sign trade deals that are prejudicial to EU interests.
None of these red lines are acceptable to hardline Brexiteers and the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, whose votes Theresa May needs for her majority in Westminster.
- Stephen Booth: This is a maximalist EU interpretation of the December agreement to keep Northern Ireland in “alignment” with EU law.
- Jon Worth: Britain had two months to come up with an alternative to the Irish border question and didn’t. The EU is falling back on the technically simplest, but politically most controversial, option.
The obvious solution would be for the United Kingdom as a whole to remain in the customs union. That would allow continued free trade in most goods and require only health and safety checks at the Irish border.
That is now the policy of the opposition Labour Party. It remains unacceptable to the Tory right.
Puigdemont to lead government-in-waiting
Catalan parties have a plan to form a new regional government without altogether sidelining Carles Puigdemont, the deposed president and head of the leading independence party.
Puigdemont would remain in Brussels, leading a government-in-waiting, while the number two of his list, Jordi Sànchez, would lead the actual government in Barcelona.
Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy, who suspended Catalan autonomy after the failed independence bid last year, immediately dismissed the plan as “absurd”.
There is another problem: Sànchez is in pre-trial detention in Madrid, pending a probe into his role in the independence process.
Republic of Americanistan
The New York Times reports that Jared Kushner’s family business received hundreds of billions of dollars in loans from New York financial institutions after he met with their heads at the White House.
This family is running the country like a post-Soviet republic.
Kushner owes his White House job — senior advisor to the president — entirely to his marriage with Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who is herself a White House official. Neither has any qualifications for the positions they hold.
Donald Trump’s own businesses, including his DC hotel three blocks away from the White House and his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, have profited immensely off their government connections.
Trump’s toxic masculinity
Frank Bruni laments that at the very time America needs a better and more nuanced model of masculinity, it has Trump: “the Access Hollywood president, whose message is that real men fetishize weapons, glorify brutality, degrade their adversaries and grope the objects of their affection.”
What happened to Trump’s infrastructure plan?
Jonathan Bernstein writes for Bloomberg View that the president’s clout with Congress is so flimsy that they feel comfortable ignoring his main legislative initiative for 2018.