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Will Britain delay Brexit in all but name — and for how long?

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With deadlines fast approaching for a Brexit agreement and a seemingly unresolvable impasse on the Irish border, Theresa May might have opted to punt — for as long as three years. Rather than cut off Northern Ireland from the UK’s trade policies or create a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, the UK may opt to stay within the EU’s trade rules through 2021 rather than exit in 2020 as originally planned, at least as the preferred “backstop” to a failure to resolve the border issue. That may leave everyone less than pleased, including some of the Prime Minister’s own constituencies.

Basically, it would be a Brexit in all but name for at least a year:

There’s a radical new option that Prime Minister Theresa May’s inner Brexit Cabinet has taken into consideration to address the intractable Irish border problem: keeping European Union customs rules for longer.

According to four people familiar with the matter, the 11 Cabinet ministers at the heart of setting Brexit policy spent much of their 90-minute meeting on Tuesday discussing the need for a new plan to ensure that there’s no return to frontier checks on goods moving between Ireland and Northern Ireland. …

The idea — already met with skepticism in Brussels — is that it would keep the U.K. aligned with some of EU trade rules for longer, as a backstop plan to avoid a crisis over the Irish border. This idea has now made its way up to the most senior levels in May’s Cabinet, with some members believing it has potential to resolve the impasse, according to the people.

Politico Europe scoffs at the idea a bit, but notes that it will play well with one important May constituency:

When is a customs union not a customs union? When it’s a “time-limited goods arrangement.”

With the Cabinet at odds over the U.K. government’s preferred option for a post-Brexit customs arrangement, British officials are exploring a new option that could provide “a bridge” to a deal. …

Such a deal also has the potential to keep the Democratic Unionist Party — whose MPs prop up May’s government — onside by avoiding a border in the Irish Sea while potentially winning Brexiteer support as a temporary “bridge” to the final position in which the whole of the U.K. exits the EU’s customs area.

“Basically it’s keeping in the external tariff until the new system is ready,” said one U.K. official. “It would have to include a sunset clause. Both sides would need this. The question is how you find the language to persuade the Irish.”

So far, Ireland’s Taoiseach seems to be reacting favorably … to an extension of the customs union. Leo Varadkar certainly won’t object to an extension of the status quo:

Beyond that, though, Varadkar threatens to oppose any proposal that leaves Ireland divided on customs policies. That would force the UK into a “hard Brexit” that will create all sorts of disruptions for both sides:

Varadkar said that the EU and Dublin had “yet to see anything that remotely approaches” a way out of the current impasse.

“By June we need to see substantial progress as the tánaiste [Varadkar’s deputy, Simon Coveney] and I have said on many occasions. The European council will review progress in June. The deadline of course for the withdrawal agreement is October, but if we are not making real and substantial progress by June then we need to seriously question whether we’re going to have a withdrawal agreement at all.” …

Varadkar said: “We need to have that backstop because that gives us the assurance that there will be no hard border on our island. So we stand by our position that there can be no withdrawal agreement without that backstop.

“If the UK wants to put forward alternatives … we’re willing to examine that. But we need to see it written down in black and white and know that its workable and legally operable. And we’ve yet to see anything that remotely approaches that.”

EU president Donald Tusk has repeatedly insisted that they will fully back Ireland on this issue and will not sign any agreement that results in a hard border on the island. That commitment hasn’t changed a whit during the period when the British government has tried to come up with alternatives to the EU-sponsored “backstop” of keeping Northern Ireland in the customs union. So far, they’ve come up empty, and the June deadline for new proposals is fast approaching.

This latest proposal doesn’t appear to rise to the level of a replacement, either. Instead, it looks more like a delay in order to give the UK more time to find a solution that will undo the Gordian knot into which Brexit has put them in Ireland. But the real question is whether there is a solution to this Gordian knot that doesn’t end up being the classic Alexandrian outcome of simply hacking right through it — the “hard Brexit” that the UK wants to avoid, resulting in the hard border by default that Ireland refuses to accept.

This has the potential for an interminable status. May has had almost two full years to come up with an answer already, and other than this delaying tactic, has come up empty.  If they can’t come up with a mutually agreeable solution in another two years, then what? Three more years of being in the customs union to keep looking for another solution? That’s not likely to satisfy anyone, which is why Varadkar is demanding that the UK meet the current deadline.

Don’t expect the EU to drop the backstop already contained within their initial agreement with May’s government based on this can-kicking idea. They have little reason to let Brexiteers off the hook anyway, and the specter of more border issues in Ireland is a good reason to demand a real solution soon, rather than just a pledge to keep working on it. June’s going to be a mighty interesting month in London, Brussels, Dublin, and Belfast.

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Reps. Meadows and Jordan Lash Out at Rosenstein For Demanding Special “Classified” Format to Testify on Capitol Hill

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Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) lashed out at Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein Friday afternoon over his demands for a special format to testify next week on Capitol Hill.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte announced Thursday that Rosenstein will appear on Capitol Hill October 24th for a closed-door, transcribed interview.

Rosenstein is demanding the interview be private and held in a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility) with multiple Republican lawmakers excluded.

Unfortunately only the House Judiciary and Oversight Chairs and ranking members will be present for the grilling.

According to the House Judiciary announcement, only 4 members from the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees will be present:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) announced Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will appear on October 24, 2018, for a transcribed interview conducted by Chairmen Bob Goodlatte and Trey Gowdy and Ranking Members Jerry Nadler and Elijah Cummings.

JIM JORDAN: Rod Rosenstein wants a SPECIAL format to testify: only 2 Rep and 2 Dem members of Congress asking questions in closed door classified setting.


Another example of the double standard. One set of rules for regular folks, a different set for the politically connected. Unacceptable.

MARK MEADOWS: Rod Rosenstein declines to show up before Congress and then asks for special treatment. He wants his interview to be private, in a SCIF, with multiple members excluded.

There should be NO double standard. Show up and tell the truth under the same conditions as everyone else.

Meadows and Jordan want to ask Rod Rosenstein about his plot to wear a wire and oust Trump from office.

Former FBI lawyer James Baker appeared on Capitol Hill earlier Thursday for the second time to testify about Rosenstein’s plan to wear a wire and and the use of FISA warrants to oust President Trump from office.

Rep. Meadows emerged from the testimony Thursday calling for Rosenstein to “resign immediately.”

This is yet more proof that there is a two-tiered justice system in this country.

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Caravan reaches Mexican border, breaks through fence on Guatemalan side

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The migrant caravan reached the southern border of Mexico Thursday night and NBC News reports some have already crossed the border. Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal described the situation along the Mexican border as tense:

Tension was palpable in Ciudad Hidalgo, a tiny tropical village in Mexico surrounded by rain forest and banana plantations that borders Tecun Uman in Guatemala, with the two towns separated by a muddy river. Late Thursday, some 300 Mexican federal police officers equipped with antiriot gear were deployed to the border crossing ahead of the caravan’s expected arrival…

Many migrants marched along the river banks on Thursday afternoon. “Let them know that we are going to cross to Mexico!” shouted a man clad with a cap in front of the crowd.

The border between Mexico and Guatemala (at this location) is the Suchiate River. Here’s what that looks like from the bridge spanning the river:

There are gates on both sides of the bridge to control traffic. Buzzfeed’s Karla Zabs is there covering developments this morning. A short time ago the caravan began massing at the Guatemalan gate:

And that led to a standoff. The AP reports that “young men” eventually tore open the barricade and swarmed onto the bridge:

Migrants in a caravan traveling through Central America have broken down gates at a border crossing and are streaming toward a bridge to Mexico.

After arriving at the tall, yellow metal fence Friday, some clambered atop it and on U.S.-donated military jeeps.

Young men began violently tugging on the barrier and finally succeeded in tearing it down.

Men, women and children then rushed through toward the bridge, about 150 yards (137 meters) away.

This tweet translates as “Bombshell! Thousands of Hondurans manage to enter Mexican territory!”

The Noticias video below helps explain the sequence of events. This is a live stream but you can scroll back. First people were massed at the yellow gates on the Guatemalan side of the bridge. Then they broke through those gates and streamed onto the bridge as seen in that clip above. The migrants made their way to the Mexican side of the bridge and, at first, it appeared the gates were open, but they were pushed closed by police with riot shields.

A shoving match ensued between the police and the migrants trying to re-open the gates. Some migrants are throwing things at the police and the police appear to be using batons to keep people’s hands off the gates. Finally, when the gate is shut, you see some men jumping off the bridge into the water where they swim to a nearby raft.

Stalemate, at least for the moment:

I’ll update this post when the situation changes.

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BREAKING: Nellie Ohr Invokes Marital Privilege Preventing Her From Answering Questions About Talks With Her Husband Bruce Ohr

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Nellie Ohr, wife of twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr appeared on Capitol Hill Friday to face lawmakers in a closed-door grilling.

Mrs. Ohr was supposed to appear for a deposition last month but she was refusing to cooperate with lawmakers.

Now this…

Nellie Ohr invoked marital privilege on Friday preventing her from answering questions about her husband Bruce Ohr.

MANU RAJU: Very rare bipartisan agreement: Both sides say Nellie Ohr interview has been led to nothing. She invoked marital privilege preventing her from answering qs about talks with her husband. @MarkMeadows sees no reason to bring her back. @CongressmanRaja calls it a “nothing burger”

Rep. Mark Meadows confirmed Nellie Ohr invoked spousal privilege. 

The House Judiciary and House Oversight Committees sought to question Nellie Ohr after her husband Bruce Ohr gave an explosive testimony to Congress.


The former Associate Deputy Attorney General told Congress the FBI knew his wife, Nellie Ohr worked for oppo research firm Fusion GPS yet failed to disclose that information to the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court].

Nellie Ohr was paid multiple large payments by Fusion GPS, the oppo research firm that commissioned dossier author Christopher Steele.

Mrs. Ohr also previously worked for the CIA and was a corrupt Communist sympathizer who spoke fluent Russian.

This story is still developing…please check back for updates.

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