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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks to his office on Downing Street after a Cabinet meeting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks to his office on Downing Street after a Cabinet meeting in London, Sept. 15, 2020 (AP photo by Frank Augstein).

Boris Johnson Is Hurtling the U.K. Toward Another Brexit Cliff

Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020

Four years after Britons voted narrowly to leave the European Union, the Brexit drama continues. The United Kingdom formally left the EU in January, but trade and other arrangements remain the same while negotiators try to reach a final agreement by the end of the year on the terms of the post-Brexit trade relationship. So far, however, the deadline is looming with no agreement in sight. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week raised the stakes by threatening to stop talking if there is no agreement by Oct. 15. His government further complicated things by releasing draft legislation that Johnson’s own Cabinet members admit would contradict the terms of its withdrawal agreement with the EU, which was negotiated last year, and violate international law, since it is an international treaty.

As part of his strategy for gaining and holding power—by catering to constituencies favoring a “hard” Brexit—Johnson has repeatedly flirted with the idea of leaving the EU without a deal. His predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, resigned after she failed to gain support from Johnson and other hard-liners for the withdrawal agreement she had negotiated with the EU. Johnson made leaving the EU by the end of 2019 a core element of his case to succeed May, and then used the threat of a no-deal outcome to try to pressure the British Parliament into approving the slightly modified pact that he struck with Brussels. That deal, among other issues, set the level of payments that the U.K. will owe the EU as a result of withdrawal and also addressed the status of EU citizens in the U.K. and British citizens in the rest of the EU. ...

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