- Britain seems to have lost its way. As the contagion of chaos spreads across government and Brexit negotiations across the Channel, Prime Minister Theresa May’s hold on power may be weakening. Over the weekend, The Sunday Times reported that 40 MPs, just eight short of the number required to force a vote on the Conservative party leadership, are ready to sign a letter of no confidence.
- Additionally, a letter from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove to Ms. May, attempting to dictate Brexit strategy to her, was leaked to the press. The demands in the letter and the language used have created a stir, summing up the leadership crisis in the cabinet. Last week, International Development Secretary Priti Patel resignedover unofficial meetings in Israel, and days earlier, Ms. May’s deputy, Damian Green, started facing an inquiry into allegations of inappropriate behaviour. On November 1, Defence Secretary Michael Fallon resigned over brewing sexual harassment accusations, and there have been calls for Mr. Johnson, enfant terrible of Ms. May’s Cabinet, to resign over comments that may have exposed a British charity worker currently in an Iranian prison. Ms. May’s defensiveness draws from her tenuous hold on her position — caused largely by her decision to call a snap election in June, and destroying her wafer-thin majority in Parliament. She lacks the authority to bring order to her Cabinet and focus on the mammoth task at hand: ensuring a minimally disruptive exit form the European Union.
- Ms. May’s conciliatory speech in Florence in September failed to be the turning point in the Brexit negotiations that she hoped it would be. Even if the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, adopted a softer position, France and Germany have since made it clear that Britain will have to come up with more money and details prior to any discussion on transition arrangements and trade deals. The EU minus Britain will begin internal consultations on transition arrangements and trade, London’s priority subjects, only after “sufficient progress” is made in three other areas: citizen rights, the divorce bill and agreement on how to treat the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The European Council will meet mid-December to decide if sufficient progress has been made to start the next phase of talks. Last week, Mr. Barnier reiterated that Britain would need to up its financial offer by late November to stick to this timeline. This is a challenge given that the U.K.’s autumn budget will be presented on November 22. Consequently, trade and transition talks may get pushed into 2018, exacerbating an already precarious situation for businesses and banks. Mr. Barnier also revealed that the EU is drawing up plans for the eventuality of Britain crashing out of the EU. It is in London’s interest to keep negotiations on track to avoid this, but it will need the May government to be more cohesive than it is at present.
Contagion: the communication of disease from one person to another by close contact.
Example: The rooms held no risk of contagion
Conservative: a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.
Example: They saw fascists as more patriotic and determined than traditional conservatives .
Synonyms: right-winger, reactionary, rightist, diehard, Republican, Tory
Dictate: an order or principle that must be obeyed.
Example: The dictates of fashion
Synonyms: order, command, commandment, decree, edict, ruling
Stir: move a spoon or other implement around in (a liquid or other substance) in order to mix it thoroughly.
Example: Stir the batter until it is just combined
Synonyms: mix, blend, agitate, beat, whip, whisk, fold in
Crisis: a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger.
Example: The current economic crisis
Synonyms: emergency, disaster, catastrophe, calamity, predicament, plight, mess
Inappropriate: not suitable or proper in the circumstances.
Example: There are penalties for inappropriate behavior
Synonyms: unsuitable, unfitting, unseemly, unbecoming, unbefitting, improper
Brew: make tea or coffee by mixing it with hot water.
Example: I’ve just brewed some coffee
Synonyms: prepare, infuse, make, steep, stew
Tenuous: very weak or slight.
Example: The tenuous link between interest rates and investment
Synonyms: slight, insubstantial, meager, flimsy, weak, doubtful, dubious
Transition: the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another.
Example: Students in transition from one program to another
Synonyms: change, passage, move, transformation, conversion, metamorphosis
Stick: a thin piece of wood that has fallen or been cut from a tree.
Example: Hayes picked up a fallen stick and twirled it idly between his fingers.
Synonyms: piece of wood, twig, small branch; cane, pole, post, stake, upright
Autumn: The third season of the year, when crops and fruits are gathered and leaves fall, in the northern hemisphere from September to November and in the southern hemisphere from March to May.
Example: The countryside is ablaze with color in autumn
Precarious: dependent on chance; uncertain.
Example: She made a precarious living by writing
Synonyms: uncertain, insecure, unpredictable, risky, parlous, hazardous