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Love him or hate him, Boris Johnson is the next U.K. prime minister.
Conservative Party grassroot members elected as their leader the man who’s been the face of Brexit ever since he threw his considerable charisma behind the 2016 Leave campaign.
Having finally got his dream job, Johnson inherits the unresolved divorce from the European Union that ended the careers of both his predecessors. Brexit true-believers delight in his “do or die” pledge that the U.K. will leave on Oct. 31 no matter what. But Brexit is a complex beast that will test his light-on-detail approach.
Soaring rhetoric can only get you so far when there is parliamentary gridlock and when the EU shows little sign of wanting to make further concessions. There is a growing sense that only an election can potentially unblock the situation, and in Johnson the Tories have a talented campaigner.
Brexit has driven a wedge in a nation already divided by class and riven by inequality. It has drowned out debate on virtually anything else. Johnson’s many gaffes and creative approach to the truth make him a controversial figure, at home as well as abroad.
President Donald Trump considers him a like-minded friend, while EU leaders view him with deep suspicion. And with an escalating crisis with Iran — the U.S. and Europe are divided over preserving the 2015 nuclear agreement and Tehran last week seized a U.K.-flagged oil tanker — his allegiances will be tested early.
Debt time bomb | Democratic party operatives are worried the bipartisan budget agreement Trump announced yesterday simply delays a debt-limit crisis that could torpedo a Democratic president’s first-term agenda. As Sahil Kapur writes, they’re particularly concerned that, should Trump lose in 2020, Republicans could pepper his successor with demands to cut spending as a price for raising the borrowing limit.
- Here’s the latest Campaign Update on the race for the White House.
Mueller’s risks | Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s nationally televised testimony in Congress tomorrow on election meddling by Russia carries perils for both Democrats and Republicans. While he’s likely to contradict Trump’s erroneous claim of “no collusion, no obstruction,” his comments may prove for the Democrats to be either an anti-climax or fuel demands for impeachment that party leaders oppose as a divisive and futile exercise. Chris Strohm and Billy House report on what's at stake.
Iran tension | Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi is traveling to France to meet President Emmanuel Macron as tensions between the Islamic Republic and the U.K. threaten to undermine Europe’s efforts to save the nuclear accord. Macron has been trying to stop the agreement from collapsing after the U.S. pulled out last year.
- Glen Cary reports how any conflict between the U.S. and Iran might start in the one country where both sides have thousands of forces on the ground: Iraq.
Loose lips | President Jair Bolsonaro visits Brazil’s northeast today, days after making disparaging comments about the area that prompted an indignant response from state governors. While the region may be the country’s poorest, Bolsonaro’s unnecessary gaffe risks alienating some of the lawmakers there who he needs to pass his legislative agenda.
Dirty politics | A sex scandal has laid bare tensions between the likely successors to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The rivalry between Anwar Ibrahim and his deputy Azmin Ali spilled into the open after a series of sex videos implicating Azmin was leaked and Anwar's political secretary was remanded by police over the leaks. Mahathir’s response was blunt, writing in his blog today that he will “not be used as a tool. Least of all by someone with evil intentions.”
What to Watch
- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspected a new submarine that may soon be deployed between the peninsula and Japan, as his regime tries to step up its ability to launch missiles from the sea.
- Finance ministers struggling to keep a European in charge of the International Monetary Fund have just over a week to agree on a candidate, but there’s still no sign of a consensus.
- Spain’s acting prime minister, Pedro Sanchez, is seeking to clinch the support of his potential ruling partners, Podemos, to form a left-wing government. He needs to win the confidence of parliament to avert the country’s fourth election in as many years.
And finally... There’s another career up in smoke. Taiwan’s spy chief quit yesterday after an agent was accused of using President Tsai Ing-wen’s North America trip as cover to smuggle almost $200,000 of tax-free cigarettes through an expedited customs line for officials. National Security Bureau chief Peng Sheng-chu previously served as an air force general and top presidential body guard.
--With assistance from Bruce Douglas and Brendan Scott.
To contact the authors of this story: Flavia Krause-Jackson in London at email@example.comRuth Pollard in New Delhi at firstname.lastname@example.org
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