May Leaves, Brexit Remains
Plus: Hong Kong prepares for protest over mainland extradition, Ethiopia tries to mediate in Sudan, and the other stories we're following today.
Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Theresa May resigns as British Conservative party leader, fears mount over changes to Hong Kong’s extradition laws, and Ethiopia hosts Sudan’s military and opposition after Khartoum was suspended from the African Union.
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May Resigns, Brexit Remains
British Prime Minister Theresa May officially resigns today as Conservative Party leader after nearly three tumultuous years as prime minister. She spent most of that time trying to negotiate and deliver a Brexit deal—something that ultimately defeated her. As for May’s legacy, history may not be kind. “May failed on all counts. She leaves office denied even the customary consolations of minor accomplishment that traditionally soften the blow of departure,” Alex Massie writes for FP. “She had one job, and she failed to do it.”
The first round of voting to replace May as party leader takes place on June 13, as Conservative members of Parliament narrow down the field from 11 candidates. A final decision is expected in late July. In the interim, May remains prime minister.
Who will replace her? The Brexiteer and former London mayor Boris Johnson is the current frontrunner. He received a boost on Thursday when a top Conservative party donor pledged funds to his campaign. Whoever wins could face a challenge. Parliament is still expected to be in session when the announcement is made in July, and May has a working majority of just six, thanks to a deal with the hardline Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party. That means that the opposition Labour party could trigger a vote of confidence in the new prime minister within the House of Commons, the Guardian reports.
Deal or no deal? May’s successor will inherit her Brexit dilemma. Some Conservative MPs said this week that May’s successor should ditch her deal and fully commit to the Oct. 31 deadline to leave the European Union. Johnson, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom, and Esther McVey would all be willing to do so. It could force a constitutional crisis, as Parliament would likely step in to prevent leaving the EU without a deal.
Other Conservative lawmakers are uneasy about a prime minister who supports a no-deal Brexit, something for which the country appears increasingly unprepared. On Thursday, the official responsible for Brexit border plans, including emergency arrangements for Ireland in the event of no deal, also resigned.
What We’re Following Today
Hong Kong’s extradition laws draw protest. Large crowds are expected in Hong Kong on Sunday in a protest against controversial changes to the city’s extradition laws, which would allow those wanted for arrest by China to be sent to the mainland for the first time. More than 3,000 lawyers held a rare march in the city on Thursday. Critics say the changes would extend Chinese influence over Hong Kong, which operates under the “one country, two systems” model, and that the laws would put Chinese and Taiwanese nationals in the city at risk.
Ethiopia plans for Sudan mediation. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed will meet representatives of Sudan’s ruling military council and its opposition today in an effort to mediate. Talks between the two parties broke down when security forces raided the main protest camp in Khartoum. On Thursday, the African Union suspended Sudan until the military hands over power to civilians, amid growing global pressure. Sudan’s opposition has pledged to continue protesting.
No agreement yet between the U.S., Mexico. After a second day of talks between the United States and Mexico, it remains unclear whether Mexican promises to slow illegal immigration will prevent threatened U.S. tariffs. The markets seem to think so: Stocks rose on Thursday as a deal appeared to draw near. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador plans to hold a rally along the border in Tijuana on June 8, two days before the 5 percent tariffs would take effect.
Keep an Eye On
The German Greens. Two opinion polls on Thursday showed Germany’s opposition Greens with record-high support—a potential threat to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tenuous ruling coalition. The Greens have proposed talks to form a new alliance with the far-left Linke and the Social Democrats. The SPD is currently part of Merkel’s coalition but faces uncertainty after losses in last month’s EU elections.
Elections in Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan’s presidential election takes place on Sunday, though there is just one serious candidate: Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the interim president selected by the longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan has no significant political opposition, and most Western observers do not recognize the country’s elections as legitimate.
Quebec’s burqa ban. Next week the Quebec legislature will debate a proposed ban on government employees wearing religious symbols, which would primarily affect Muslim women who wear the hijab. The bill follows several recent bans on hijabs and niqabs in Europe but it is the first in the Americas, Zahra Jamal writes for FP.
HIV outbreak in Pakistan. Since April around 700 people—the majority of them children—have been diagnosed with HIV in the south of Pakistan, which already lags behind in treatment for the disease. Health experts traced the outbreak in part to infected syringes and are concerned that it could increase skepticism toward vaccines in the country.
The trade war’s effects in Vietnam. Foreign direct investment in Vietnam increased by nearly 70 percent in the first five months of this year, largely due to the U.S.-China trade war. But the investment boom won’t turn the Mekong Delta into a manufacturing zone—Vietnam simply doesn’t have the necessary workforce, Bennett Murray writes for FP.
Odds and Ends
Canada’s transportation authority will forbid flight crews from using marijuana within 28 days of flight duty. Canada is one of the few countries where recreational cannabis is legal, following a law passed last October.
Foreign Policy Recommends
Give me a child until he is seven, and I will show you the man—or so the Jesuit saying goes. That is exactly what the British TV series Up has done. In 1964, the show selected a group of 7-year-old kids from all walks of life, and it has checked in with the group every seven years since. In a powerful commentary on the British class system, the show tracks members of the group as they have gone on to become lawyers and scientists or experienced poverty and homelessness. Now in its ninth installment, 63 Up airs this week on the British channel ITV. Amy Mackinnon, staff writer
Later today on FP’s podcast, First Person: Hundreds of people are issued permits each year to attempt an ascent of Mount Everest. At least 11 people have died on the mountain this season, sparking a debate about overcrowding and inexperience. Woody Hartman, a U.S. climber who has just returned from a harrowing trip to Everest, speaks with deputy editor Sarah Wildman.
That’s it for today.