Boris, Brexit & Britain

Written by  //  September 17, 2020  //  Britain/U.K., Europe & EU  //  Comments Off on Boris, Brexit & Britain

Brexit: What is the Irish border backstop?
The Guardian Brexit
BBC: Brexit: All you need to know about the UK leaving the EU
Brexit, EU & UK – June 2019
Boris, Brexit & Britain July-November 2019


17 September
The Telegraph: With cases of Covid-19 rising and the testing system in chaos, Boris Johnson is fighting to keep the pandemic under control. We reported this morning that ministers are considering reversing the return to the office, as the Government announces further restrictions in its bid to avoid another national lockdown. You can follow the latest on our live blog. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister is at risk of letting events overwhelm him and has just six months to save his premiership, writes Allister Heath.

13 September
Boris Johnson set to opt out of human rights laws
Prime Minister to open second confrontation with EU in bid to ease migrant deportation cases
(The Telegraph) Britain is preparing to opt out of major parts of European human rights laws, risking an explosive new row with the EU.
Boris Johnson’s aides and ministers are drawing up proposals to severely curb the use of human rights laws in areas in which judges have “overreached”.
The plans under discussion include opt-outs from the Human Rights Act, which could prevent many migrants and asylum seekers from using the legislation to avoid deportation and protect British soldiers against claims relating to overseas operations. The Act allows British courts to apply the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
The move sets up a major new confrontation with the EU, which has been demanding that the UK commits to remaining signed up to the ECHR and keep the Human Rights Act in place as the price of future “law enforcement co-operation” between the bloc and Britain.
The ECHR, and its European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), are part of a completely different legal system to the EU. They are both part of the Council of Europe, which has 47 member states including Russia and the UK.
In a joint intervention on Sunday, Sir John Major and Tony Blair will urge MPs to vote the Bill down if Mr Johnson fails to remove the provisions on Northern Ireland customs rules that Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland Secretary, admitted would “break international law in a very specific and limited way”.
They will say: “We both opposed Brexit. We both accept it is now happening. But this way of negotiating, with reason cast aside in pursuit of ideology and cavalier bombast posing as serious diplomacy, is irresponsible, wrong in principle and dangerous in practice.”

7 September
Bloomberg: Johnson’s government insists its plan is simply a fallback option in case EU talks — the latest round on the nuts and bolts of the divorce arrangements is happening this week — fall short. Some in his party see it as a sledgehammer tactic to scare Brussels into backing down on trade terms for fishing rights and state aid, or to start the inevitable fight that comes before a deal is reached.
Either way, it’s a high-risk move. While voters at home may be more relaxed about breaches of international law than EU politicians, Johnson’s Britain is trying to carve out a new role on the global stage.
When it comes to dealing with China or Russia, and reinforcing the rules-based international order, Johnson’s move could complicate the task of British diplomats.
And Brexit talks aren’t happening in isolation. The U.K. economy is in its deepest recession for 100 years, and Johnson is tightening virus restrictions as infections spike. Getting an EU trade deal looks more vital than ever.

7 September
Fears for Brexit deal as talks near deadline
(BBC) EU diplomats in Brussels wake up this morning with a sore head. The government has thrown a number of political grenades across the Channel over the space of a few hours.
First: a defiant-sounding interview with David Frost, the UK chief negotiator in the troubled trade talks with the EU. Next came a leak about government plans to introduce domestic legislation which would partially undermine the Brexit divorce deal, the Withdrawal Agreement, signed last year with the EU. Also affecting the Irish Protocol, designed at the time by Brussels and the UK to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. … As regards the domestic legislation affecting the Irish Protocol (the precise details of which have not yet been revealed), Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney tweeted that would be “a very unwise way for the government to proceed”.
Tough talk and fresh deadlines: Brexit’s back
Michel Barnier heads to London as the two sides keep calm and carry on.
(Politico Eu) Prime Minister Boris Johnson, his chief negotiator David Frost and various anonymous U.K. government briefings have teed up plenty of negative mood music ahead of the eighth round of future relationship negotiations, which start in London on Tuesday.
Johnson has set a hard deadline for a deal (the European Council summit on October 15) and insisted that failing to secure one would be a “good outcome.” Frost gave a rare interview to insist the U.K. wouldn’t “blink” in the talks. Meanwhile, briefings to the Times newspaper put Downing Street’s estimate of the probability of a deal at 30-40 percent and it was even suggested the U.K. was prepared to undermine the foundations of the talks themselves by altering the withdrawal treaty struck with Brussels last year.
After such a salvo, the stage might seem set for a huge Brexit bust-up when Michel Barnier arrives in London. But despite the noise, the fundamentals of the negotiations remain where they’ve been for weeks, stuck on just two issues: state aid and fisheries.

5 September
Exclusive: Leaked meeting notes show Boris Johnson said Trump was ‘making America great again’
The Prime Minister is quoted telling the US ambassador in August 2017, when foreign secretary, that Mr Trump was doing ‘fantastic stuff’
(The Telegraph) Boris Johnson privately told US diplomats that Donald Trump was “making America great again”, according to a cache of official notes taken during high-level UK-US meetings whose details have leaked to The Telegraph.
The Prime Minister is quoted telling the US ambassador to Britain in August 2017, when he was foreign secretary, that Mr Trump was doing “fantastic stuff” on foreign policy issues like China, Syria and North Korea.
Other records show Mr Johnson claimed the US president was becoming “increasingly popular” in Britain in 2017 and spoke warmly about how under his leadership America was “back and engaged in the world”.

18 August
EU banking on UK urgency to unlock Brexit talks
(Politico Eu) With Britain’s other trade talks seeing delays and setbacks, Brussels thinks it has the upper hand, but a breakthrough isn’t imminent.
Brussels is in no rush to compromise on a post-Brexit deal — even though time is quickly running out to agree one — because it believes “Global Britain” is delayed on the runway.
“The U.K. desperately needs this deal,” said an EU official closely involved in the talks ahead of this week’s round. “If the clock is ticking, reality will start to sink in in London. The U.K. might not always have behaved rationally in its negotiations with Brussels, but surely the pandemic and the lack of trade alternatives must lead to some reason in London.”
In the last couple of weeks, the U.K. has experienced a series of delays and setbacks in its other trade negotiations, which it had hoped would put pressure on Brussels to compromise on some of its red lines.
Britain and Japan were unable to announce a new trade deal at the beginning of August as planned, despite intense, high-level political engagement. That deal with Japan will be the first step for London to get into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) pact.
UK hopeful of EU trade deal next month, says No 10
(BBC) The UK still believes it can agree a post-Brexit trade deal with the EU next month, according to Downing Street.
The PM’s spokesman said UK negotiators would “continue to plug the gaps” when talks enter their seventh round in Brussels on Tuesday.
The two sides remain divided over competition rules, fishing rights and how a deal would be enforced.
The UK has ruled out extending the December deadline to reach an agreement.
This week’s talks are the last scheduled negotiating round ahead of the autumn, although both sides have previously said talks would continue in September.

9 August
The Guardian view on Brexit bureaucracy: tied up in red tape
Businesses already struggling with the fallout from Covid-19 will be forced to deal with a mountain of new bureaucracy in the middle of a deep recession
As the clock runs down to the end of the transition period on 31 December, ministers are no longer bothering to offer the false hope of a relatively frictionless trade agreement with the EU. Even a Canada-style free trade deal will mean a vast infrastructure of compliance and checks: permits for lorry drivers to enter Kent, huge customs clearance centres and tracking apps are all in the mix. The government estimates that, from 2021, there will be over 400m extra customs checks a year on goods going to and from the EU.

29 July
EU’s Hogan: UK only started engaging on Brexit issues in ‘last week or two’
(Politico Eu) Trade commissioner says he welcomes a change of ‘attitude’ on the British side.
Speaking to the Guardian, Phil Hogan, the commissioner for trade, said there were “five or six” major issues preventing a deal and that talks were “not as advanced as we would like.”
Negotiations between the U.K. and EU have taken place throughout this month, with both sides admitting they will miss an end-of-month target for an outline of a deal.
Hogan blamed the delay on a previous lack of seriousness from U.K. negotiators, though he welcomed what he described as a recent shift in “attitude.”

14 July
Huawei is to be stripped out of Britain’s 5G phone networks by 2027, a date that puts Boris Johnson on collision course with a group of Conservative rebels who want the Chinese company eliminated quicker and more comprehensively.
The decision represents an enforced U-turn on a previous decision to allow Huawei to supply 35% of the UK’s 5G equipment, and a compromise with BT and Vodafone, who warned there could be phone “outages” if they were forced to act sooner.
It follows the announcement in May of further US sanctions against Huawei, preventing it from using microchips from American suppliers.
What is Huawei and why is its role in UK’s 5G so controversial?

3 June
John Keiger: Inside the final act of the Brexit drama
In truth, the two sides are too far apart for a deal to be feasible. World Trade Organisation rules with annex agreements in an ‘Australian deal’ is the sanest outcome. Otherwise, as with Endgame’s character Clov – who constantly vows he is leaving, but cannot exit the room – the Brexit play will join the theatre of the absurd.
(The Spectator) The fourth round of official Brexit negotiations resumed on Tuesday, screen-to-screen. They will determine whether the stalemate can be broken and a trade deal sealed by the end of the transition date of 31 December. By mid-June, a high-level ‘stock-take’ between Boris Johnson and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will assess whether sufficient progress has been made to continue negotiations.
Such is not the case thus far, according to recent public utterances from Michel Barnier and David Frost, who has claimed ‘very little progress’. Just like in Endgame, Samuel Beckett’s tragicomedy, a sense of hopelessness pervades the final scene of the drama. In the play – as with Brexit – the characters await deliverance while nothing, in fact, happens. How will it all end? For sure, if the absurdity is to ‘finish’ this Endgame cycle, then any extension is out of the question. So three scenarios are possible, but only one is likely.
The first is the conclusion of a full Free Trade Agreement; the second is that talks break down and Britain moves to WTO rules from 1 January 2021; the third sees talks become ever more fractious and the EU’s kingmakers – France and Germany – step in to redirect the official negotiations.
Of the three, the second seems the most probable – but not before Macron and Merkel make an entrance.
… Since the nadir of the May days, the boot has been on the other foot as regards negotiating solidarity. Expect particularly jaundiced member states – the Scandinavians and the eastern Europeans – to contest the Commission and Macron’s euro-ideological hard line. The UK has the opportunity to drive a hard bargain by using discontented member-states – with whom it has in the last few years increased its diplomatic presence – to divide and conquer, in the manner of the European Commission towards the constituent nations of the United Kingdom.

25 May
(Bloomberg) For an old Etonian who studied classics at Oxford, Boris Johnson has shown a remarkable ability to connect with everyday people. But the prime minister is in danger of losing his common touch.
Johnson’s decision to throw his weight behind Dominic Cummings, despite his chief adviser apparently breaking lockdown rules, has caused an outcry in the U.K. Cummings acted “with integrity” Johnson said yesterday, after his aide drove his wife and son from London to his parents’ home in northern England while suffering symptoms.
That attempt to sail through the storm looks untenable: Elements of the Tory-supporting press have turned on the government, while ruling Conservative Party lawmakers are calling for Cummings to go.
More damaging, the decision looks hypocritical to a nation that has suffered the world’s second-highest death toll. And to a public that has overwhelmingly heeded the government’s Stay at Home message, sometimes at great personal cost.
Johnson has long appeared to defy political gravity. His infidelities and habitual falsehoods didn’t seem to matter as he won a landslide election victory on a pledge to finally take the U.K. out of the European Union.
Six months on and after surviving a close call with the illness himself, he has lost his sheen of invincibility. As Britain faces its biggest collective set of challenges since World War II, the coronavirus may have just called his bluff. — Alan Crawford

21 May
(The Spectator) The world has barely started to recover from the Covid crisis, with Brexit talks hit as badly as anything else. But Boris Johnson is sticking to his original timetable, says James Forsyth, and may even accelerate it. The Prime Minister will decide next month whether the UK will leave the EU without a trade deal: the logic is that, if the world’s trading links lie in ruins, it’s best that Britain rebuilds for a global future.
From Brexit to Donald Trump to COVID-19: How the influence industry has replaced politics
By Richard Poplak and Diana Neille, directors of Influence, a documentary about the business of disinformation streaming as part of this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival.
(Globe & Mail) Lying is older than speech; propaganda is as old as politics. But there was something new about the disinformation tools employed during the Remain/Leave campaign. Brexit helped weaponize the “social” shareability of Twitter and Facebook, which mass-marketed lies with a speed that was previously unthinkable. Once again, across the pond in the United States, there was a deafening echo: The idea of “fake news” was ingrained deep inside the public imaginarium by Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, whether created by the president-to-be himself, his surrogates or foreign actors spoiling for chaos.
It’s important to remember that, while Mr. Trump and Brexit may have been surprising to some, they were by no means black swan events – for Lord Bell, they barely warranted raising an eyebrow. While he remained a lifelong Luddite, his career coincided with advancements in what is now termed “behavioural science,” a term used to describe the discipline that measures how crowds behave in relation to certain stimuli. In the late 1980s and ’90s, the field was given a boost by another Saatchi & Saatchi alumnus, Nigel Oakes, who went on to found the Behavioural Dynamics Institute and, later, Strategic Communications Laboratories Group (SCL Group) – parent company to the notorious and now-defunct Cambridge Analytica.

18 April
Coronavirus: 38 days when Britain sleepwalked into disaster
Boris Johnson skipped five Cobra meetings on the virus, calls to order protective gear were ignored and scientists’ warnings fell on deaf ears. Failings in February may have cost thousands of lives
(The Times) The virus had spread from China to six countries and was almost certainly in many others. Sensing the coming danger, the British government briefly went into wartime mode that day, holding a meeting of Cobra, its national crisis committee.
But it took just an hour that January 24 lunchtime to brush aside the coronavirus threat. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, bounced out of Whitehall after chairing the meeting and breezily told reporters the risk to the UK public was “low”.
This was despite the publication that day of an alarming study by Chinese doctors in the medical journal The Lancet. It assessed the lethal potential of the virus, for the first time suggesting it was comparable to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed up to 50 million people.
Unusually, Boris Johnson had been absent from Cobra. The committee — which includes ministers, intelligence chiefs and military generals — gathers at moments of great peril such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other threats to the nation and is normally chaired by the prime minister.
Johnson had found time that day, however, to join in a lunar-new-year dragon eyes ritual as part of Downing Street’s reception for the Chinese community, led by the country’s ambassador.
… The prime minister’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, is said to have had initial enthusiasm for the herd immunity concept, which may have played a part in the government’s early approach to managing the virus. The Department of Health firmly denies that “herd immunity” was ever its aim and rejects suggestions that Whitty supported it. Cummings also denies backing the concept.
The failure to obtain large amounts of testing equipment was another big error of judgment, according to the Downing Street source. It would later be one of the big scandals of the coronavirus crisis that the considerable capacity of Britain’s private laboratories to mass-produce tests was not harnessed during those crucial weeks of February.
… By February 26 there were 13 known cases in the UK. That day — almost four weeks before a full lockdown would be announced — ministers were warned through another advisory committee that the country was facing a catastrophic loss of life unless drastic action was taken. By this time the prime minister had missed five Cobra meetings on the preparations to combat the looming pandemic, which he left to be chaired by Hancock.

12 April
Britain’s Boris Johnson discharged from hospital
Johnson, 55, was the first world leader confirmed to have the virus. His COVID-19 symptoms, including a cough and a fever, at first were described as mild, and he worked from home during the first few days of self-isolation.
But he was admitted to St. Thomas’ on April 5 after his condition worsened and transferred the following day to the intensive care unit, where he received oxygen but was not put onto a ventilator. Johnson spent three nights in the ICU before he was moved back to a regular hospital ward on Thursday.

6 April
Coronavirus: Boris Johnson moved to intensive care as symptoms worsen
(BBC) A No 10 statement read: “The prime minister has been under the care of doctors at St Thomas’ Hospital, in London, after being admitted with persistent symptoms of coronavirus.
Britain is facing a new leadership crisis at its most vulnerable moment in decades. With the worst of the coronavirus outbreak expected to hit the country in the next 7-10 days, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been hospitalized for what Downing Street has characterized as precautionary tests.
Now Johnson is handing over key duties to his untested deputy, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab [Who is Dominic Raab, the man standing in for Boris Johnson?], who will chair the daily crisis meetings. This has its own risks.
Queen Elizabeth II stepped in last night with a rare televised address to the nation, appealing for the unity and resolve it showed during World War II.
Yet what the country needs now is a leader with a strong enough grip on the government machine to deal with the emergency. — Tim Ross

27 March
UK’s plan B if ‘Team Johnson’ is incapacitated? Answer is unclear
(Reuters) Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock both said they were able to keep working from self-isolation at home after confirming they had tested positive for the virus.
But the fact that two such crucial members of the British government have contracted the disease – and their top medical adviser is now self-isolating with symptoms – has raised questions about how the government would function without them at a time of global crisis.
With only an unwieldy collection of sometimes ancient and contradictory precedents to go by, there is no simple, formally-enshrined “Plan B” or succession scenario, experts said.

26 March
Amanda Sloat: Brexit is not immune to coronavirus
(Brookings) As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson informed the nation on Monday evening of dramatic
new restrictions  to stem the spread of coronavirus, Brexit was the last thing on most Britons’ minds. For most citizens and businesses, little has changed in their daily lives since the U.K. left the European Union (EU) on January 31. Although the British government no longer participates in EU decisionmaking institutions, the country remains bound by its rules and enjoys the benefits of membership during a transition period lasting until December 31.
Yet given the COVID-19 pandemic, it is increasingly likely the government will need to extend this timeline or risk additional economic shocks. The crisis is also underscoring the post-Brexit regulatory and coordination challenges ahead.
During the 11-month transition, the U.K. and EU planned to determine their future relationship. They need to hammer out the terms of a free-trade agreement, aspiring to a zero-quota, zero-tariff deal similar to the EU’s recent agreement with Canada. They must also address air transport, aviation safety, civil nuclear energy, international security cooperation, and fisheries. Both sides have published draft documents.

18 – 19 March
‘We Are Frightened’: U.K. Doctors Brace for a Coronavirus Explosion
Hospitals will soon be overwhelmed with patients they can’t treat properly, doctors say, because of the British government’s mishandling of the pandemic.
(NYT) As the coronavirus bears down on Britain’s overstretched National Health Service, doctors say they fear trying days of hard choices and rationed resources.
Hospitals are calling off all but the most urgent procedures to prepare for an incoming wave of coronavirus patients. Operating rooms are being converted to house the infected, and specialists are being redeployed or even retrained to deal with patients’ needs.
Front-line medical workers are complaining of inadequate testing and shortages of protective gear, raising fears that doctors and nurses may be spreading the virus or will be forced into isolation as the demand for care peaks. Most worrisome is the limited supply of ventilators to sustain what is expected to be a soaring number of patients in coming weeks, putting doctors in the position of deciding which ones to treat and which ones to let die.
I’m a Doctor in Britain. We’re Heading Into the Abyss.
How many people will die because we’ve been working on the brink of collapse for too long?
By Jessica Potter, a respiratory specialist in Britain’s National Health Service.

16 March
Former chair of Royal College of GPs who caught virus describes how it REALLY felt – from NHS 111 not replying, to a throat like knives, raging fever and how her ’60-year-old body’ defended itself… and won
(Daily Mail) Dr Clare Gerada, 60, a GP in London, and former chair of the Royal College of GPs tested positive last week
Said she was just a little out of sorts initially and thought it was probably jetlag after flying back from New York
It started with a new dry cough and then it soon developed into a sore throat before she became feverish
The UK Only Realised “In The Last Few Days” That Its Coronavirus Strategy Would “Likely Result In Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths”
Scientists advising the government say an aggressive new approach adopted to attempt to “suppress” the virus may have to be in place for 18 months.
The report, published by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team on Monday night, found that the strategy previously being pursued by the government — dubbed “mitigation” and involving home isolation of suspect cases and their family members but not including restrictions on wider society — would “likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over”.The mitigation strategy “focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread — reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection”, the report said, reflecting the UK strategy that was outlined last week by Boris Johnson and the chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance.
But the approach was found to be unworkable. “Our most significant conclusion is that mitigation is unlikely to be feasible without emergency surge capacity limits of the UK and US healthcare systems being exceeded many times over,” perhaps by as much as eight times, the report said.
In this scenario, the Imperial College team predicted as many as 250,000 deaths in Britain.

13 February
Irish unification is becoming likelier
The price of ending violence two decades ago was for Northern Ireland, the republic and Britain to jointly set out a political route to a united Ireland. If the people of the north and the republic choose that path, the politicians must follow it.
(The Economist) On February 8th that duopoly was smashed apart, when Sinn Fein got the largest share of first-preference votes in the republic’s general election. The party, with links to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which bombed and shot its way through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, won with a left-wing platform that included promises to spend more on health and housing. Yet it did not hide its desire for something a lot more ambitious. “Our core political objective”, its manifesto read, “is to achieve Irish Unity and the referendum on Unity which is the means to secure this.” … Sinn Fein’s success at the election is just the latest reason to think that a united Ireland within a decade or so is a real—and growing—possibility.
… Until today, however, unification has never been more than a Republican fantasy. Even as the IRA waged a bloody campaign in the 20th century, the north’s constitutional status was cemented by a solid Protestant majority and the financial and military backing of the British state.
Brexit is one reason all this has changed. The north voted against, but the biggest unionist party and England voted for. Nationalists were not the only ones to be angered by the current home secretary, who suggested using the threat of food shortages to soften up the south in the negotiations, heedless of the famine in the 1840s when all of Ireland was under British rule. Brexit also creates an economic border in the Irish Sea, between Northern Ireland and Britain, even as it keeps a united Ireland for goods. Although services will become harder to trade with the south, trading goods will be easier than with Britain. In that the north’s six counties are affected more by what happens in Dublin, the value of having a say in who governs there will grow.
The pressure for unification is about more than Brexit. Northern Ireland’s census in 2021 is likely to confirm that Catholics outnumber Protestants for the first time. The republic has also become more welcoming. The influence of the Catholic church has faded dramatically and society has become more liberal.

11 February
UK trade deal faces potential veto from every EU country
Even the smallest member country will be able to wield influence over the accord.
(Politico Eu) If Spain wants to block a future trade deal with the U.K. over Gibraltar, if Belgium wants to stop a deal over fish or if France wants to veto over financial regulation, they have a legal way to do so.
The concession to EU countries is buried in the legal section of the draft negotiating directives that the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier presented on Monday. This document refers to Article 217 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union as a legal basis for an EU-U.K. agreement because of the “scope of the envisaged partnership and the ambitious and long-term relationship that it seeks to establish.”
Under EU law, holding the Brexit talks on the basis of Article 217 means that member countries will need to reach a unanimous decision in Council, giving each of the EU27 countries a chance to weigh in on the talks and forcing Barnier to keep every country’s interests in mind during the upcoming negotiations.

3-4 February
Brexit has only just begun, says think-tank
Trade experts say only a basic UK-EU trade deal is possible by 2021, but some economists point to Brexit’s benefits.
(Al Jazeera) The UK has left the European Union, and as far as the government here is concerned, Brexit is over. But it’s not quite that simple, and the hard work and tough decisions are yet to come, according to a new report published on Tuesday by the research organisation The UK in a Changing Europe. In Brexit: What Next?, the authors focus on the tight December 31, 2020 deadline for the end of the “transition period”, by when the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is determined to have secured a deal with the EU covering trade, security and other issues.
Brexit trade deal clash: UK and EU begin sparring over rulesPost-Brexit rhetoric between UK, Europe heats up before trade talks start in March.
Brexit Done? Not So Fast. Britain and E.U. Enter New Trade Deal Battle.
Three days after the U.K.’s formal withdrawal from the European Union, the two sides are squaring off in the “chest beating” phase of negotiations.

2 February
Brian Eno’s message on Brexit day – and a reply from Yanis Varoufakis
To my European Friends: … those of us who call ourselves liberals or socialists or democrats weren’t paying attention. Most of us didn’t notice that for working people conditions were becoming bleaker every year. And we didn’t notice that the gutter press was relentlessly directing the blame for those conditions towards the victims – the immigrants, the poor, the social workers, the teachers, the foreigners…and most of all, the EU. We didn’t recognise the revolution because we always thought it was us who were supposed to be the revolutionaries.
YV: On Brexit day, on behalf of DiEM25, I sent you, our comrades in Britain, the following: By leaving us, you are making us sadder, poorer and more prone to the errors that made so many of you vote for Brexit. The only solace I take from your departure is the thought that Brexit will convince you that a European Union should be invented even if it did not exist. And that it will convince us, on the Continent, to democratise properly the one we have so as to serve our people’s needs and, yes, to lure you back as well.

31 January

Brexit in Historical Perspective: The Age of Britain in Europe
(The Gladstone Diaries) For nearly half a century – from 1973 to 2020 – perhaps the single most important fact about British history was its membership of the European Union (or ‘Community’, until 1993). Membership touched almost every area of national life. It transformed how Britain was governed, who it traded with and who had the right to live and work here. It rewired Britain’s manufacturing base, rewrote its constitution and transformed its judicial system. Its effects have been felt across the spectrum of public policy, from gay rights and environmental protection to regional policy, agriculture and the peace process in Northern Ireland. This was ‘the Age of Britain in Europe’, and its passing marks an epoch in our modern history.
Membership provided an answer to three fundamental questions about Britain’s role in the world, which reached a crisis in the years after 1945. First, how could Britain maintain its prosperity, as a declining industrial power that had lost its colonial markets? Second, how could it project power in the world, once it had lost its empire and its global military reach? Third, how could Britain preserve its sovereignty, in an increasingly globalised world? Put differently, how could Britain ‘take back control’, at a time when it seemed to be leaking sovereignty to the currency markets, to the International Monetary Fund, and to big trading blocs that were setting the rules of world trade?
From 1961 to 2016, every government (whether Conservative or Labour) started from three basic assumptions: that the best way to rebuild Britain’s economic strength was as the entry-point to an integrated, European market; that the surest route to influence in Washington or the Commonwealth was through a leadership role in Europe; and that the best way to maximise British sovereignty was to have a seat at the table where its destiny would be decided.
Yet recent governments have shown little understanding of why that decision was reached, or of the strategic dilemmas to which Europe became the answer. To say this is not to refight the arguments of the last four years. But unless we understand why Britain joined – and why alternative strategies were rejected – we will not be realistic about the scale of the challenge that lies ahead.

Brexit Has Arrived. But Boris Johnson’s Reign Is Just Beginning.
With his signature campaign promise fulfilled, the prime minister can now reshape Britain for a generation.
By Richard Seymour
(NYT) The moment has arrived. Britain is out of the European Union. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his “People’s Government” — it scarcely calls itself Conservative at this point — has fulfilled the promise on which it was elected in December and “got Brexit done.”
There are difficulties ahead. Mr. Johnson has promised impossible and contradictory things on Brexit: Maximum regulatory freedom where it suits his government, maximum frictionless trade where it suits the British economy. The European Union is unlikely to give him what he wants in the months of negotiations to come.
But by fulfilling his pledge, Mr. Johnson has won enormous good will from nationalist voters across England and Wales. Outside the European Union, he will also have more scope to change the British government’s role in the economy. This gives him a unique opportunity do what his predecessors could not: build a lasting popular base for the Conservative Party. Mr. Johnson can now take advantage of his big majority to overhaul British capitalism, incentivizing long-term Conservative voters while permanently annexing chunks of the Labour Party’s historic base.
During the election, Mr. Johnson was able to glide over the glaring contradictions in what he said with a bustling con man’s charm, but in office he has to navigate them. With a big majority, he can no longer play the outsider. However, the lesson of nationalist leaders globally is that, in this jittery era, they don’t have to deliver booming success to keep power. From Viktor Orban in Hungary to Narendra Modi in India, these leaders have expanded their base by delivering a personalized, charismatic form of rule in which they are militant defenders of the nation against all comers — be they foreigners, “traitors,” liberals, or leftists.
Mr. Johnson is not a nationalist by conviction. He is the epitome of the “reckless opportunists” that, as the sociologist Aeron Davis says, run Britain. His voting record in Parliament shows him to be slightly more liberal than his party. But his performance over the last few months — during which he agitated against Parliament, accused opponents of “collaboration” with Europe, and saber-rattled against the courts and media — showed him to be adept at using the far right’s template. Whenever the contradictions in his government threaten to unravel, he is likely to return to these tactics.

Roger Cohen: Requiem for a Dream
Britain exits Europe. It will be poorer, above all in its shriveled heart.
Brexit Day, now upon us, feels like the end of hope, a moral collapse, a self-amputation that will make the country where I grew up poorer in every sense.
Poorer materially, of course, but above all poorer in its shriveled soul, divorced from its neighborhood, internally fractured, smaller, meaner, more insular, more alone, no longer a protagonist in the great miracle of the postwar years — Europe’s journey toward borderless peace and union. Britain, in a fit of deluded jingoism, has opted for littleness.

The mixed emotions of Brexit day show the UK is not yet at ease with itself
(The Guardian) How does a nation say goodbye to its neighbours? With a lump in its throat and a poignant song of farewell – or with cheers and a raised middle finger of defiant good riddance? The answer that Britain gave at 11pm on Friday 31 January 2020 was: both. The UK broke from the European Union on a late winter’s night with both jubilation and regret, as divided on the day of leaving as it had been in deciding to leave. For some Britons, this was Independence Day. For others, it was a national bereavement.
… while Downing Street had its clock, remainers had a projection of their own: a film beamed on to the white cliffs of Dover, featuring two veterans of the second world war, both in their 90s, speaking of their sadness at the coming of this hour. They would miss the “comradeship” of the European Union, they said, adding the hope that “we will be back together before too long”. The film, the work of the Led by Donkeys group, ended with an image of a single gold star from the European flag. “This is our star,” said the message. “Look after it for us.”
Brexit day: Britain quits EU, steps into transition twilight zone
(Reuters) – The United Kingdom leaves the European Union on Friday for an uncertain Brexit future, the most significant change to its place in the world since the loss of empire and a blow to 70 years of efforts to forge European unity from the ruins of war.
… for all Johnson’s talk of healing, there was no agreement between leave and remain at the moment of parting – except on one thing. Both saw 11pm as chiming in an epochal shift in the history of these islands. True, nothing material altered at that moment. The UK that wakes up on Saturday will still have to stick to EU rules and pay into the EU budget, albeit without any say, until 31 December. Britons can still go through the EU citizens line at the airport. Things will only get real on the first day of 2021.

2 January

those of us who call ourselves liberals or socialists or democrats weren’t paying attention. Most of us didn’t notice that for working people conditions were becoming bleaker every year. And we didn’t notice that the gutter press was relentlessly directing the blame for those conditions towards the victims – the immigrants, the poor, the social workers, the teachers, the foreigners…and most of all, the EU. We didn’t notice because for us life wasn’t too bad – we all had our iPhones and apps and Amazon accounts and cheap flights to seasides and other ways of wasting our time. Meanwhile there was a revolution going on.

We didn’t recognise the revolution because we always thought it was us who were supposed to be the revolutionaries.

30 January
Why Britain Brexited
For decades, the country has struggled with the challenge facing the modern nation-state: how to balance control and influence.
(The Atlantic) The United Kingdom will soon begin the most radical national experiment of the 21st century so far: Brexit. … Brexit is essentially an aberration, a decision of epic stupidity, which, at its heart, seeks to reverse the tide of history pushing midsize countries into multinational blocs in order to compete in a world of superpowers. Britain, in voting to leave the biggest and most advanced of these blocs, has allowed an instant of nostalgic madness to rip it from its moorings, casting it off into the exposed waters of economic isolation at the very moment the rest of the world, led by Donald Trump, is putting up trade barriers. It is a story of a country that has lost control of who it is and where it is going.
There is another perspective, viewing Brexit as a largely conservative act, returning to what remains, after all, the norm for most countries: independent national sovereignty. In this view, shared by some conservative historians, economists, and politicians, Brexit is primarily about protection from the EU’s radicalism, viewing the bloc’s push for ever-closer union—manifested most obviously in its single currency—as the aberration of history, turning what was once a confederation of nation-states into a federal union.

26 January
Fast-track ‘global talent visa’ to be launched days after Brexit
Boris Johnson’s scheme to attract scientists dismissed by Lib Dems as ‘gimmick’
The Spectator:
This week will see a momentous, historic event: Britain leaving the European Union. But it’s not clear whether Friday’s Brexit day will be dominated by the celebrations of the people who campaigned to get the country out of the EU, or the regrets and recriminations of those who tried to stop this happening. Today we’ve had Lord Heseltine complaining that it is ‘unwise of the government to rub our noses in it by celebrating our defeat at this hour, whilst talking about unifying the country’. So far we’ve had the new Brexit 50p coin which bears the words ‘peace, prosperity and friendship with all nations’, and on Friday will see a light display in Downing Street and Whitehall, along with Union flags in Parliament Square and Pall Mall. From 10pm, there will also be a countdown clock projected onto No. 10 – though this won’t conclude with the bongs of Big Ben, despite the efforts of many Brexiteers. It remains to be seen whether Mark Francois will stage his own performance in Westminster.
This week will also see more detail on the practical implications of Brexit, with a new report from the Migration Advisory Committee due to set out plans for the new immigration system. This will include a review of the proposed £30,000 minimum salary threshold for migrant workers, which some in business have argued will lead to shortages in key sectors.
Designing a new immigration system is complicated enough, and that’s one of the reasons the proposed split between the Home Office and a new Immigration department has been paused, as the upheaval could lead to total chaos. But this pales into insignificance next to the decision, expected on Tuesday, about whether Huawei should be allowed to supply some infrastructure for the UK’s 5G network. Boris Johnson is having to take the decision at the same time as trying to build a new trade agreement with the United States

How to mark Brexit Day? Boris Johnson is searching for the right tone.
(WaPo) At the strike of 11 p.m. local time on Jan. 31 — a.k.a. midnight in Brussels — Britain will leave the European Union, more or less.
So what happens to Britain when it wakes up the morning after Exit Day?
Essentially, nothing. The whole point of the coming 11-month transition period is that nothing changes for travel and trade.
Instead, teams of negotiators will be dispersed around the world to hustle up trade deals and re-ink some of the 600 international treaties that Britain is leaving by exiting the E.U.

Despite the spin that a trade pact with President Trump is at the top of the list, Sajid Javid, Britain’s finance minister, told an audience in Davos, Switzerland, this past week that the U.K. needed and wanted a deal with the E.U. first.
The timeline is tight. Even the most ardent Brexiteers in government acknowledge there are tough talks ahead, with Britain either securing a free-trade deal or not.

21 January
Prince Harry joins Meghan in Canada, without the half-in, half-out royal deal they wanted
Prince Harry joined his wife, Meghan, and their son, Archie, Tuesday on Canada’s Vancouver Island, to begin mapping out a life outside the royal fold.
Harry and Meghan won their freedom, but things didn’t go quite as planned. Two weeks ago, they announced they wanted to “step back” as front-line royals and “carve out a progressive new role within this institution.” But they aren’t stepping back so much as stepping down. … The British tabloids have dubbed it a “hard Megxit”
… There may be other reasons, too, why the queen did not greenlight a hybrid model for Harry and Meghan.
Canada, though it remains a member of the British Commonwealth, wasn’t especially enthusiastic about becoming an outpost for the royal family.
15 January
How Megxit put Queen Elizabeth II in the role of crisis manager once again
(NYT) At the peak of the latest crisis facing the House of Windsor, which saw Prince Harry and Meghan announce, via Instagram, their decision to quit their roles as senior royals, it was Queen Elizabeth II who took hold of the spinning wheel, to steady the family — and protect the royal brand.
At 93, an age when many matriarchs would be among the dearly or nearly departed, or elbowed aside to allow an ambitious younger generation to run the show, the queen remains firmly in charge — of both a sprawling, often problematic family and the monarchy.
It was the queen who convened the meeting at her royal estate in Sandringham this week to deal with Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. And although her son and heir, Prince Charles, reportedly assisted, afterward it was the queen who issued her very personal statement to sort out the matter.


12 – 13 December

The Economist: We have published a special edition with our analysis of Britain’s astonishing general election. As we went to press, Boris Johnson was heading for a majority of around 80 seats, the largest Conservative victory since the days of Margaret Thatcher. Under Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, Labour has suffered its worst result since 1935. The vote marks a profound realignment in British politics. For the first time since the referendum of 2016, it is clear that Britain will leave the European Union. The party of the rich has buried Labour under the votes of working-class northerners and Midlanders. And, after a decade of weak or non-existent majorities, Britain has a prime minister with immense personal authority and a free rein in Parliament.

The United Kingdom Has Voted. Will It Remain United?
Boris Johnson’s resounding victory means Britain will almost certainly leave the European Union. But what will become of Scotland and Northern Ireland?
(NYT editorial) Brexit is now a fact, and that is the first and most concrete takeaway from the election. Without any viable opposition in his own Tory ranks, whose dissidents he had purged before the election and whose deputies all vowed to support him on Brexit, Mr. Johnson is likely to get his Brexit bill through Parliament within days or weeks, and Britain to formally leave the union by the end-of-January deadline. … The survival of the “United” in United Kingdom itself was in question after a strong showing by the nationalist party in Scotland and its certain demand for a new referendum on independence, as well as the uncertain fate of Northern Ireland under Mr. Johnson’s Brexit plan.
Boris Johnson pledges to prioritise NHS after election victory
Prime minister wants ‘healing to begin’ after gamble on Brexit-focused election pays off
(The Guardian) Boris Johnson has claimed he wants to “let the healing begin” over Brexit, pitching himself as the prime minister of a one-nation government after winning the largest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher.
Speaking outside Downing Street, Johnson said the NHS would be his top priority in government, and the country needed “a permanent break” from the issue of Brexit after three and a half years of bitter division.
The prime minister gave his speech a few hours after visiting the Queen to inform her he had the support to lead a government, after the Conservatives won an 80-seat majority with the help of previously Labour-held seats across the north of England, the Midlands and Wales.
Jeremy Corbyn ‘very sad’ at election defeat but feels proud of manifesto
The Labour leader is under pressure to step down but did not give a timetable for departure
The Labour leader gave a short statement in which he did not apologise to the 60 Labour MPs who lost their seats since its 2017 result or acknowledge any responsibility for the party suffering its worst result since 1935.
Could Boris Johnson Be the Last Prime Minister of the U.K. As We Know It?
(New York) While Johnson may claim victory in this election and in the debate over Brexit, his legacy and his political future will depend on how he governs over the coming years. With the threat of another Scottish independence vote (and an uncertain future for Northern Ireland), he might end up being the last prime minister of the U.K. as we know it today. British — or rather, English — politicians a generation from now could find themselves in a downsized House of Commons, debating whether breaking up with the European Union was worth breaking up their own union as well.
It’s Boris Johnson’s Britain Now
His impact in a short period of time has been revolutionary, and his resounding victory means he can remake the country.
(The Atlantic) In the six months since Johnson took over from Theresa May … He has sheared off the Conservative Party’s most liberal wing, radicalized Britain’s divorce deal with the European Union—and won a thumping mandate from the public to see it through. In doing so, he has eliminated the opposition’s chances of blocking Brexit and set the country on course for a future not only outside the EU, but also one that remakes its regulatory, legal, and economic order.
Tom McTague:The Britain that has emerged today is different from the one that came before, its old political map erased, its economic model upended, its prospects uncertain—even its very unity in doubt. The Britain built by Tony Blair is gone, fatally undermined by David Cameron’s Brexit referendum and now swept away in a provincial tide of support for Boris Johnson’s Conservatives.
Gwynne Dyer: English turkeys vote for Christmas with ‘Brexit election’
Down on the turkey farm, the Scottish and Irish birds noticed the smiling man was holding a hatchet behind his back, and hid. The Welsh turkeys looked confused and huddled together squawking. But the English turkeys marched bravely up to the chopping block, confident this would be a Christmas to remember.
Boris Johnson’s big victory in Thursday’s “Brexit election” was achieved almost entirely with English votes. Only 20 of the 364 seats won by the Conservative Party were in the other three nations of the United Kingdom.

10 December
So much for polls!
UK’s Johnson now less certain of election victory: YouGov
(Reuters) “Based on the model, we cannot rule out a hung parliament,” Anthony Wells, YouGov’s director of political research, told The Times newspaper, which published the results.
U.K. Health Service Poses a Late Election Issue for Boris Johnson
There is a dawning realization among voters that the prime minister’s vow to complete Brexit could undermine the N.H.S.
(NYT) With Britain on the precipice of an election that could soon lead to a decisive break with the European Union, Brexit looks to many people more like a threat to their cherished health service than its salvation. The system has already deteriorated under the watch of Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party, with beds overflowing, waiting times swelling and nurse and doctor vacancies piling up.
Zoe Williams: The Tories have underestimated young voters’ anger. That could be costly
‘Young’ isn’t a demographic any more but a class cohort with similar problems – and they’re treated with baffling prejudice
(The Guardian) There are rumours that Boris Johnson’s camp fears “t’n’t” – turnout and tactical voting.
It is true that the get-out-the-vote campaign is superior on Labour’s side, a corollary to the party’s larger activist base. It is true, too, that the polls consistently show a progressive majority in this country that could beat this extreme ethno-nationalist variety of Toryism hands down, if it all voted the same way. But experience knocks the edges off these fears: the right has the overwhelming support of the over-65s, who everyone knows are the best at turning out.
Yet there are some threats they do not seem to have factored in. The most obvious is the youthquake, which is a curious oversight, since it was only two years ago that it happened last. There is a tendency right across the political spectrum to write young voters off as a kind of joke constituency: flighty, capricious, liable to get distracted by a bee or put off by a spot of rain. This is partly down to a misunderstanding of what we mean by “youth” – in the 18 to 24 and 24 to 35 age brackets, the preferences are solid and overwhelming – 3:1 progressive parties to Conservative/Brexit parties.
Something interesting happens when you alter the cutoff ages – if your next age bracket is 30 to 39, as in a recent YouGov poll, that drops to 2:1, a significantly closer ratio but still, in polling terms, conclusive – a 30-point lead for the left over the right. However, when your age bracket is 35 to 44, as in this ICM poll, the Tories are actually one point ahead of Labour. As a political entity, “young” is now any age up to 39. Among the over-40s, opinions are a lot more divided – until you get to 70.

Brexit deal includes two-way customs checks, insists Ireland
Foreign minister challenges Johnson’s claim about goods moving from Northern Ireland to Britain
(The Guardian) “It was very clear when the deal was done,” he said in Brussels on Monday. “The EU has made it clear they want to minimise the impact on goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, but at the same time goods coming from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will need to have some checks to ensure that the EU knows what is potentially coming into their market through Northern Ireland.”
The comments contradicted Johnson’s claims, repeated last Sunday, that there would be no checks on goods moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain.
Coveney’s tacit rebuke followed sharper censure on Monday from Arlene Foster, the Democratic Unionist party leader, who accused the prime minister of misrepresenting the Brexit deal and breaking his word to Northern Ireland.
A document leaked last week, written by officials in the government’s Brexit department, warned that Johnson’s stated goal of implementing his deal by the end of 2020 presented a major challenge because of the need to create new protocols and systems for business in Northern Ireland.
The document, obtained by the Financial Times, claimed that 98% of export businesses were “likely to struggle to bear the cost” of the extra paperwork, fuelling concerns of increased prices for consumers.
Northern Ireland customs protocol could thwart Brexit plans
Arrangement to apply part of EU customs code to region is ‘major’ block to Brexit delivery

1 December
In Prince Andrew Scandal, Prince Charles Emerges as Monarch-in-Waiting
After a public-relations debacle stirred questions about the role of Queen Elizabeth II, the Prince of Wales is asserting a newfound authority in British royal affairs.
(NYT) The Prince of Wales was said to be worried that the scandal had spiraled so rapidly that it was threatening to eclipse this month’s general election in Britain, The Times of London reported.
The latest crisis erupted at a time when Britain’s political leaders, paralyzed by Brexit, are in little position to help. Far from steadying the crown, … today’s politicians are drawing her into their own frantic machinations.
Critics accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of misleading the queen when he asked her to suspend Parliament for a period of weeks, rather than the customary few days, in an effort to curtail parliamentary discussion and action on Brexit. The decision was later declared illegal by Britain’s Supreme Court.

29 November
Bloomberg Politics: Election peril | U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading opinion polls but, as he heads into the final campaign stretch for the Dec. 12 election, he could be facing his biggest danger yet. …Trump’s brief visit to London next week — to mark NATO’s 70th anniversary — has senior Conservatives worried for a whole host of reasons.

27 November
UK’s Conservatives set for biggest win since 1987: YouGov model
(Reuters) – Britain’s Conservative Party is on course to win its biggest majority in parliament since 1987 at a Dec. 12 election, according to a new poll, which would give Prime Minister Boris Johnson a mandate to take the country out of the European Union.
“The swing to the Conservative party is bigger in areas that voted to Leave in 2016, with the bulk of the projected Tory gains coming in the North and the urban West Midlands, as well as former mining seats in the East Midlands,” said Wells.

25 November
All I want for Christmas is Brexit
Boris Johnson sets out timetable if he wins the election.
(Politico Eu) “My early Christmas present to the nation will be to bring the Brexit bill back before the festive break, and get parliament working for the people,” Boris Johnson said ahead of the Conservative manifesto launch on Sunday. “As families sit down to carve up their turkeys this Christmas, I want them to enjoy their festive season free from the seemingly unending Brexit box-set drama.”
But far from being free from drama, Johnson’s pledge will mean Brexit upheaval that could last right up to Christmas Eve.
Downing Street announced today that the queen will make her trip for the state opening of parliament on Thursday, December 19 — presumably with some degree of déjà vu after she went through the same ceremony in October when Johnson closed and re-opened the parliamentary session. The state opening will take a full day and no government business can be brought forward until after it is finished.

Boris Johnson plays for time with a cautious, tepid manifesto
Prime minister pins his hope on ‘getting Brexit done’ while not scoring any own goals
(The Guardian) Take no chances. Make no mistakes. Maintain strict message discipline. …the Conservatives think the only way they can lose the election is if they throw it away.
The contrast between the manifesto launched by Boris Johnson and Labour’s last week was marked. Behind in the polls and with only three weeks to go before election day, Jeremy Corbyn has gambled that voters are ready for radicalism.
The prime minister, by contrast, is seeking to run down the clock until 12 December, relying on the fact that his “get Brexit done” line has cut through. Things started to go pear-shaped for Theresa May in 2017 when her manifesto plans for social care were dubbed a “dementia tax”. This time, the Conservatives have said the answer is to build a long-term, cross-party consensus.
Johnson’s pitch throughout the campaign has been that Britain’s departure from the EU will unleash a wave of pent-up investment and, by ending the uncertainty, lead to faster economic growth. But there is no guarantee that this will happen, particularly since even if Brexit does go ahead on 31 January next year, the rest of 2020 will be spent trying to conclude a trade deal with the EU before the transition period ends,
… The safety first approach has its risks. Pledging to spend more on hospitals, schools and the police has been a recognition that voters have wearied of austerity and want a change of course. This is an election that is being fought on ground that suits Labour.

11 November
Brexit party will not contest 317 Tory-won seats, Farage says
Party leader announces election climbdown in effort to avoid splitting leave vote
Nigel Farage has said the Brexit party will not field any candidates against the Conservatives in the 317 seats they won at the last general election, after Boris Johnson committed to leaving the EU by 2020 and pursuing a Canada-style trade deal.
Farage said his party’s climbdown came after months of trying to create a leave alliance with the Tories, but he felt it was time to put the country before his party and make a “unilateral” move.
He will announce on Friday in which seats the Brexit party is standing. Speculation continues over where the party will stand but it is not expected to run in Northern Ireland or parts of Scotland.
As he spelled out his general election strategy at a rally in Hartlepool, which voted 70% to leave the UK, Farage said he had concluded that if the Brexit party had stood a candidate in every seat it could split the vote and usher in dozens of Liberal Democrat MPs and, in turn, create the circumstances for a second referendum.

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