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Morning Brief

The Brexit Debate Never Ends

Plus: Japan and South Korea’s diplomatic dispute, Mexico’s new finance minister, and the other stories we’re following today.

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt take part in the ITV debate on July 9 in Salford, England.
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt take part in the ITV debate on July 9 in Salford, England. Photo by Matt Frost/ITV via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: U.K. prime minister contenders clash over Brexit, the Japan-South Korea dispute continues, and Mexico’s finance minister quits—rattling markets.

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The Continuing Clash Over Brexit

Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt held their only live TV debate on Tuesday—two weeks before the Conservative party chooses one of them as Britain’s next prime minister. Johnson, the clear frontrunner, remains adamant about leaving the European Union by the Oct. 31 deadline and questioned Hunt’s ability to do so. Johnson refuses to rule out suspending Parliament to push through a no-deal Brexit. Meanwhile, the former Conservative prime minister, John Major, threatened to take Boris Johnson to court if he becomes prime minister and then seeks to prorogue Parliament, calling such a plan “utterly and totally unacceptable from any British parliamentarian or democrat.”

What will Parliament do? Ahead of the debates, British lawmakers voted narrowly to approve a measure—spearheaded by the Conservative former attorney general, Dominic Grieve—that would make such a suspension more difficult. The amendment passed in the House of Commons will complicate the next prime minister’s ability to suspend Parliament later this year. And in a major shift, the opposition Labour Party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, endorsed the idea of a second referendum on any Brexit deal (or no-deal exit) backed by the new prime minister. But he did not say what Labour’s Brexit position would be in the event of an early general election campaign—prompting critics to accuse him of further fence-sitting.

An Irish warning. Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, called a no-deal Brexit “an ugly prospect” with extreme consequences. His comments came after the Irish government released a contingency plan identifying no deal as a “significant risk.” “It will put political relationships on this island under a great deal of strain,” Coveney said.

Diplomatic row. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump has continued to lash out at the British Ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch, on Twitter in response to the cables leaked earlier this week calling his administration “dysfunctional.” The snub could make other diplomats think twice before honestly assessing the administration, Robbie Gramer reports.

What We’re Following Today

Japan-South Korea spat continues. The diplomatic dispute between Japan and South Korea keeps escalating. At the heart of the two countries’ disagreement is South Korea’s demand for compensation for those forced to work for Japanese companies during World War II—and Japan’s defense of the slave labor. The conflict threatens to disrupt the global supply of smartphones and chips: Japan has tightened exports of materials that could affect Samsung and chip suppliers to Apple and Huawei. Representatives for the countries will meet on Friday.

Mexico’s economy gets new leader. Mexico’s finance minister, Carlos Urzúa, suddenly stepped down on Tuesday citing economic “extremism,” briefly rattling the peso and global markets. Urzúa was widely seen as a stabilizing force in an administration that has surprised markets with its policy decisions. His replacement, Arturo Herrera, takes over a contracting economy that economists have warned is on the edge of recession.

U.S. calls for military coalition to safeguard oil routes. Over the next two weeks, the United States is seeking to put together a military coalition to protect the strategic shipping routes off the coasts of Iran and Yemen—where the United States blames Iran and its proxies for attacks on oil tankers. Facing oil sanctions, Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which one-fifth of the world’s oil passes.

Carrie Lam can’t placate protesters. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that the controversial extradition bill that has sparked the city’s largest demonstrations in decades is “dead.” It’s not enough for the protesters, who denounced the comments amid continued demands that Lam step down.

Keep an Eye On

Greek tax cuts. Despite skepticism from creditors, Greece’s new finance minister—sworn in on Tuesday—is determined to push ahead with the conservative New Democracy party’s promised tax cuts. Greece remains under close watch by the EU countries that bailed it out. The new government’s tax cut promise was part of a populist tactic to win Sunday’s elections, Yiannis Baboulias argues for FP.

Migrants in Morocco. Morocco—the biggest departure point for Europe-bound migrants in 2018—is now cracking down on migration: officials have apprehended 30,000 people this year. As it becomes harder to cross the Mediterranean, many African migrants are taking advantage of a residency permit system and choosing to stay.

Darfur. Mohamed Hamdan “Hemeti” Dagolo, the deputy chairman of Sudan’s transitional military council, has used the forces that once terrorized Darfur—now known as the Rapid Support Forces—to cement his authority. And while Darfur’s main rebel groups have rejected the new deal between the military and the opposition, they may have little choice but to continue talks with Hemeti, Jérôme Tubiana writes for FP.

Arrested Sri Lankan officials. The first two officials arrested for failing to prevent the April bombing attacks in Sri Lanka—the police chief and former defense secretary—were released on bail on Tuesday. The country’s president has not spoken publicly about the accusations. A court in Colombo, the capital, will hear the case on July 22.

Another acting defense secretary. As U.S. President Donald Trump’s latest nominee for defense secretary, Mark Esper, enters the confirmation process, the Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer is preparing to fill in. Experts say now is not the right time, Lara Seligman reports.

For behind-the-scenes analysis on stories like this, subscribe to Security Brief Plus, delivered on Thursdays.

Climate Check

Heavy monsoon rains in Bangladesh are again threatening the Rohingya refugee camps, with thousands of people relocated in recent days. The camps are located in an area prone to landslides and floods, and rights groups say the situation is worsening. In 2017, 30,000 Rohingyas were relocated amid extreme weather.

Over the last week thousands have taken to the streets of Wuhan, China, to protest a trash incineration plant that residents say will create dangerous air pollution in the city of 10 million. The sizable demonstrations—rare in mainland China—have been censored online.

France has plans to levy an “eco-tax” on all flights leaving French airports from 2020. The money raised—1.50 euros per ticket—will be invested in environmentally-friendly transit. The government has ditched previous plans to raise fuel taxes amid widespread protests.

Odds and Ends

The last Volkswagen Beetle will leave the assembly line in Puebla, Mexico, today—at least for now. The car, discontinued amid flagging sales, has been produced in Puebla since it was relaunched in 1998.

Foreign Policy Recommends

As national security advisor to Mikhail Gorbachev, Anatoly Chernyaev played a behind-the-scenes role in reforming the Soviet Union and had a front row seat to its dissolution. George Washington University’s National Security Archives recently released excerpts of his diaries from the late 1970s that contain incisive accounts of rot in the upper echelons of the Soviet Union and Moscow’s ill-fated decision to invade Afghanistan. It’s a fascinating firsthand account of the Cold War that’s worth reading. Robbie Gramer, staff writer

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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