Opinion | Macron Blinks

President Emmanuel Macron did what he had to do on Monday after a month of massive grass-roots protests, going on national television to acknowledge that he had been out of touch with the many people outside France’s major cities struggling to make ends meet and granting them some immediate tax cuts and income increases.

For a young president who swept to power with a resounding majority a scant 19 months ago at the head of a movement that promised to put the republic “on the move,” it was a painful moment, especially since it remained unclear whether his concessions would defuse the revolt of the “Yellow Vests” (whom he never mentioned). But it was not a surrender: The 13-minute address contained no apology and no sign that Mr. Macron had any intention of abandoning his economic program.

A lot rides on Mr. Macron’s ability to survive and respond to this uprising, not only for France but for all Western democracies in which the deindustrialized hinterlands have fostered an angry sense of marginalization and neglect. The Yellow Vests on the Champs-Élysées are cousins of the British who voted for Brexit, the Americans who voted for Donald Trump, and the Poles, Hungarians and Italians who elected populist, anti-democratic governments.

Mr. Macron came to power as the antithesis of the populists, a young, self-assured, highly educated, well-off whiz kid who believed in the European Union and started a pro-business program to encourage the rich and powerful to restore dynamism and momentum to the French economy. He also came convinced that the French wanted a president with a “Jupiterian” aura of detachment, grandeur and mystery, a tag he should have known would become mockery the moment he confronted social unrest.

He should also have been aware that the “left behind” of France had voted less for him than against the established parties that, they believed, had left them stranded on the economic periphery, and that leading off his reforms with the elimination of a tax on the rich was politically foolish.

All of that seems clear in retrospect, and Mr. Macron insists he has absorbed the message of the Yellow Vests and will pay heed to the ordinary citizens whose tax-eaten income barely stretches to the end of the month. Less clear is whether the demonstrators, whose Saturday invasions of Paris and other major cities have had no single organizer or common agenda, will be satisfied. And if the Saturday protests continue, the demonstrations are likely to be increasingly hijacked by violence-prone thugs.

The violence around the protests has led to enormous losses for commerce and tourism in the prime pre-Christmas season, and the government’s concessions, including the cancellation of a fuel price increase, will cost the government billions.

But it would be a far greater catastrophe for France if Mr. Macron were unable to stay the course on his structural reforms, which are critical if the country is to prod an economy that has already slowed to a 1.8 percent annual growth rate and continues to cool. The problem is that the benefits of Mr. Macron’s policies might not be evident for some time, and the Yellow Vests want action now. The proposed changes to France’s strict labor codes, for example, could take years to show positive results, but in the short term they appear to workers as an assault on hard-won rights in favor of big business.

It is also important for Europe that Mr. Macron demonstrate that popular discontent need not descend into populism and isolationism. With Germany’s formidable Chancellor Angela Merkel now in her political twilight and Britain in crisis over Brexit, Mr. Macron should be emerging as the European Union’s dominant leader and champion. That now depends on his ability to weather the uprising.

And that depends on which way the Yellow Vests go. So far the movement has not fallen prey to ideologues of the far left or the far right, and despite violence on the fringes of the Saturday demonstrations, a large majority has remained reasonably moderate in its various demands, save the odd call for Mr. Macron to go away.

Mr. Macron has done well to come down from the heavens to show contrition. But he must not stop there: He must prove that he really has understood the “anger and indignation” he referred to in his speech on Monday and that from now on he and his government are listening closely and sympathetically.



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Brexit Vote Delayed: Your Tuesday Briefing

While we’re tracking the approach of the British Parliament’s vote on Brexit, we enlisted Ellen Barry, our London-based chief international correspondent, to take over the top of your daily briefing. Let us know what you think.

Good morning.

This was expected to be a week of fireworks in British politics, as Parliament was finally getting a chance to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, and Monday morning was spent in a jittery countdown.

“Right everyone, this may be the most exciting week of Brexit,” the legal commentator David Allen Green wrote on Twitter as the hour closed in. “Brace, brace.”

I had already left for lunch when it emerged, via multiple unattributed leaks, that Mrs. May had decided at the last minute to indefinitely postpone the vote rather than face what promised to be a humiliating defeat. The news so jolted the machinery of Westminster that one of the BBC’s political commentators lapsed into total honesty.

“We’re just standing here, trying to come up with something to say,” she said.

The delay has ushered in what may be a prolonged period of havoc. One red-bearded Labour lawmaker, angry at having been denied a vote, went so far as to seize the House of Commons’ ceremonial mace, a golden staff that represents the royal authority of Parliament. He was ejected from the chamber as his colleagues cried “No!” and “Disgusting!”

Mrs. May will travel to Brussels in the coming days in hopes of returning with concessions that will placate Parliament, but this seems to be a “last, desperate throw of the dice,” my colleague Stephen Castle reports. Her enemies are circling: Lawmakers from her Conservative Party could mount a leadership challenge, or Parliament could call for a vote of no confidence in her government.

The main thing keeping Mrs. May in her post, at this moment, is the lack of any palatable alternative.

At this point, it might be worth recalling how we got here. Remember Nigel Farage? He’s the boozing, chain-smoking commodity trader-turned-politician who campaigned for 20 years to get Britain to leave the E.U. In 2012, European technocrats shrugged him off, but our reporter Landon Thomas described Mr. Farage’s “damn the technocrats” rallying cry as “raw, profane and born of genuine conviction.”

It was not until 2016 that Mr. Farage’s initiative got on the national agenda. That was because of the Conservative prime minister David Cameron. He supported remaining in the bloc, but was so eager to capture the votes of the anti-E.U. faction in his party that he promised to hold an in-or-out referendum. The political scientist Tim Bale said Mr. Cameron “will go down as the person who miscalculated, taking us out of Europe almost by mistake, and then shuffled off the stage” in a “pretty ignominious exit.”

The cause was propelled by a great surge of nostalgia — for Britain’s seafaring past, its colonial reach and even its iconic blue passports — and 17.4 million Britons, or 52 percent of voters, opted to leave. Mr. Farage has since receded to the political sidelines. Last week, when Westminster was paralyzed over Brexit, Stephen Castle found him in “a scruffy office a couple of blocks away,” observing Mrs. May’s tribulations with disdain.

“There are some people who think this dog’s dinner of a deal is my fault, because I pushed for Brexit,” he said. “To which I robustly respond by saying this is not the Brexit, or anything like the one I would have gone for.”

I’m guessing the vote won’t be rescheduled until January. This prediction is based on inside knowledge that the British are dead serious about holidays, and would not plan to buy a roll of toilet paper, much less leave the E.U., on Christmas. I’ll sign off your special Brexit briefings for the time being. Wake me if anyone steals the mace. — Ellen

Macron responds to France’s fury

A contrite President Emmanuel Macron promised immediate tax cuts and wage increases for French workers in a televised speech, as the specter of revolution hung over the country.

His hand was forced by a month of rampaging protests in Paris and other cities by the so-called Yellow Vests, a loose movement furious over the daily struggle to get by. Above, protesters watching the speech in Gaillon, France.

Mr. Macron, trying to shed his image as an insular and self-regarding emissary of elites, held a flurry of meetings with unions and others. He then reached out in his speech to strapped retirees and “the single mother, a widow, a divorcée” who “has no more hope,” offering a raft of relief proposals set to be further detailed today.

Some Yellow Vests welcomed the speech, but many others complained that Mr. Macron put forward half-measures, and analysts suggested he would have to do more to quell unrest.

Here’s what else is happening

Global warming: Rising ocean temperatures are devastating coral reefs while also giving rise to more resistant corals that can handle the heat, researchers found, which offers some hope for a besieged keystone ecosystem. But at international climate talks in Poland, the White House’s promotion of fossil fuels and rejection of climate science is drawing sympathy from countries like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

The Amazon in peril: Indigenous territories and other protected lands in the world’s largest tropical rain forest are under mounting threat from illegal mining, according to a study. “The problem is worse than at any other time in history,” a person involved with the study said. Above, damage to protected tribal land from illegal gold mining in the Brazilian state of Pará.

Lobbying for the tainted: Washington lobbyists have carved out a lucrative if seamy niche representing clients that face U.S. penalties, including the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and lobbyists with ties to President Trump have especially benefited.

Laureates’ searing pleas: At the Nobel awards ceremony in Oslo, Nadia Murad and Dr. Denis Mukwege, who were jointly awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for their campaigns to end mass rape in war, condemned what they called the international community’s indifference to wartime sexual atrocities and urged greater efforts to arrest or punish those responsible.

A museum’s makeover: The Africa Museum on the outskirts of Brussels reopened after an expensive five-year revamp that aimed to shake off its racist and pro-colonial image.

British ruling: Vijay Mallya, India’s hard-partying, self-proclaimed “King of Good Times” who fled to Britain in 2016 amid fraud and money-laundering accusations, should be extradited to his native country, a court in London said.

The wind on Mars: NASA’s InSight lander captured the first sounds recorded from the red planet. Listen here. And much, much farther out — more than 11 billion miles from Earth — NASA’s Voyager 2 became the second human-made machine to leave the solar system, entering interstellar space.

Smarter Living

Tips for a more fulfilling life.

Recipe of the day: Put these quick four-spice salmon fillets on your weekly rotation.

Wreaths are a sign of holiday welcome, and come in many variations.

The parties, the pie, the late nights — they can push your liver beyond its means.

Back Story

One of the streets of Paris that has been overtaken by violent demonstrations in the past month is the Boulevard Haussmann.

Stretching through the city’s Eighth and Ninth Arrondissements, the boulevard is named for Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann, who defined the look of modern Paris.

In the mid-19th century, Haussmann, pictured above, began a major project to redesign the city, under the direction of Emperor Napoleon III.

Haussmann was given immense power by Napoleon, the nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, and his plan cleared away the overcrowded neighborhoods of central Paris, which had become a breeding ground for disease and social unrest.

The project, which also included new parks, a sewage system and other infrastructure, turned the city into an enormous construction site from the 1850s to the 1870s.

Met with increasing criticism, Haussmann was dismissed in 1870 and died 21 years later. But his work wasn’t finished until 1927, when the boulevard that bears his name was completed.

Chris Stanford wrote today’s Back Story. Penn Bullock helped write today’s briefing.

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What would you like to see here? Contact us at [email protected]com.

Ellen Barry is the chief international correspondent for The Times and is based in London. She was previously the South Asia bureau chief and, before that, the bureau chief in Moscow. In 2011, she won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting on Russia’s justice system. @EllenBarryNYT

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Brexit begins to bite as workers turn to voting with their feet

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) – For Mr Julio Manuel Rios de la Rosa, Brexit changed everything.

The 28-year-old scientist arrived in Manchester five years ago and went on to work in a joint project of the university and AstraZeneca Plc. Although his contract had two more years to run, he quit and moved to Madrid in March, joining a small Spanish company testing cancer treatment.

“Before Brexit, I thought I would settle down in the UK because of its cutting-edge research, its global reach and the network,” Mr Rios de la Rosa said. “But the idea of going through a tedious process of constant paperwork held me back.”

Net immigration from the European Union to Britain fell to the lowest level in six years as the UK came closer to leaving the bloc and sterling dropped – even as Prime Minister Theresa May sought to reassure workers their status was safe even in a no-deal scenario.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney has warned that the UK is at risk of facing net emigration, hurting the economy, in a worst-case scenario of a disorderly departure from the EU.

Eight out of the 12 British nations and regions saw a net outflow of talent overseas in October, according to a LinkedIn report on Monday (Dec 10). The biggest exodus came from Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East, and Wales and London is still losing international talent, LinkedIn said.

Since 2015, interest in British jobs among Europeans seeking work has dimmed, according to hiring website Indeed Inc, which tracks clicks on postings. Ireland and Poland led the decline.

“Our findings will make worrying reading for employers in the UK’s health-care and construction sectors,” said Mr Pawel Adrjan, an economist at Indeed. “Both are already suffering skills shortages, and our research suggests this problem may worsen as more Europeans return to strong labor markets in their own countries or choose not to leave for the UK in the first place. “

CITIZENS LEAVING

It is not just foreigners walking off. British geneticist Emma Bell, 28, is preparing to move to Toronto to work as a cancer researcher. She has been thinking about leaving the UK since the Brexit referendum in 2016 – three of her colleagues have already relocated to Germany.

“We need basic chemicals in order to do research and I have absolutely no confidence that we’re going to be able to get those in the year after March 29,” she said, referring to Brexit day. “That’s going to be detrimental to my career as well as cancer research in the UK for a good chunk of time.”

To be sure, many are still drawn to Britain. Some 273,000 more people arrived in the year to June than left, the Office for National Statistics said last month. Non-EU citizens made up the bulk of those numbers but net migration from the bloc remained positive as well.

Seeking to end lingering uncertainty, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has guaranteed the rights of EU citizens and their family members to “continue to work, study and access benefits and services on the same basis as now” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

Yet Mrs May has said there will be no preference granted to EU nationals under Britain’s post-Brexit immigration regime, which will be based on skills and the needs of employers.

Mr Rios de la Rosa has already made his decision.

“After the referendum, I was in shock, not only for the implications it had at a personal level – if we would need a visa or not, for instance – but also because the UK would be left out of research programmes,” he said.

Related Stories: 

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Theresa May pulls Brexit deal vote as she heads back to Brussels

Government sources have told Sky News the prime minister will delay a vote on her agreement with Brussels, which had been scheduled for Tuesday night and was likely to bring a heavy defeat for Mrs May.

She will now stage a last-ditch attempt to win concessions from EU leaders at a Brussels summit on Thursday and Friday, with many of her MPs vehemently opposed to the so-called backstop arrangement in the UK’s withdrawal agreement.

Education minister Nadhim Zahawi revealed Theresa May had “listened to colleagues and will head to Brussels to push back on the backstop”.

:: What PM hopes to achieve by pulling Brexit vote

Over the weekend, Mrs May held telephone calls with a series of EU leaders, including European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

However, both Mr Varadkar and a spokesperson for Mr Juncker reiterated on Monday that there will be no renegotiation of Mrs May’s deal.

The decision to delay the House of Commons vote came after days of denial from Downing Street and cabinet ministers that a parliamentary showdown on the Brexit deal would be postponed.

Even as late as Monday morning, Number 10 insisted Tuesday’s vote was going ahead as planned, prior to Mrs May holding an emergency conference call with her cabinet.

Mrs May was accused of cowardice over her subsequent decision to delay, while Brexit-supporting MPs claimed not holding a vote was still an effective defeat of the prime minister’s plans.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claimed the development revealed how “we don’t have a functioning government”.

He said: “The government has decided Theresa May’s Brexit deal is so disastrous that it has taken the desperate step of delaying its own vote at the eleventh hour.

“We have known for at least two weeks that Theresa May’s worst of all worlds deal was going to be rejected by parliament because it is damaging for Britain.

“Instead, she ploughed ahead when she should have gone back to Brussels to renegotiate or called an election so the public could elect a new government that could do so.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused Mrs May of “pathetic cowardice”, adding: “Yet again the interests of the Tory party are a higher priority for her than anything else.”

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds MP claimed the prime minister’s deal would have been “overwhelmingly defeated” if it had been put to a vote.

“Deferring the vote is only of any use if the government is prepared to go to Brussels and insist on necessary changes to the withdrawal agreement,” he said.

“Few people accepted this was the best deal available and the prime minister’s actions today prove that.”

Former Brexit minister Steve Baker claimed postponing the vote was “essentially a defeat of the prime minister’s Brexit deal”.

“This isn’t the mark of a stable government or a strong plan,” he posted on Twitter.

Remain-supporting Tory MP Anna Soubry expressed her fear the government is merely “putting off the inevitable” while she suggested Mrs May had now “weakened her own position” and could soon face a vote of confidence among Conservative MPs.

The prime minister will make a statement to MPs later on Monday, where she is likely to explain her decision, before Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom provides an update on parliamentary business.

MPs had been set to hold another eight hours of debate on Mrs May’s deal on both Monday and Tuesday, before a series of crunch votes.

On Monday, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK has the right to unilaterally revoke the Article 50 notification to leave the EU without the permission of other member states.

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Theresa May's Brexit PR blitz just wasn't enough

Government sources told Sky News that the vote is now being delayed.

The prime minister will make a statement to the Commons at 3.30pm to explain why, and more importantly, what happens next.

Despite a massive PR blitz around the country and numerous appearances on the airwaves and in the Commons, the PM simply couldn’t get enough MPs to back her.

She had spoken to a number of EU leaders and senior politicians over the weekend, hoping they might be persuaded to give a little ground on the Irish backstop.

The EU, so far, remains resolute that the withdrawal agreement cannot be changed.

But by pulling the vote, the PM will be hoping she can convince Brussels there will be no deal without a little more movement on the backstop.

The big question is whether Theresa May can achieve enough to secure the support she needs from parliament.

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John Kelly, Brexit, N.F.L.: Your Monday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the sign-up.)

Good morning,

We start today with a look at the wild swings in the stock market, President Trump’s search for a new chief of staff, and a major investigation into the sale of users’ smartphone data.

Markets brace for more volatility

Investors could face more stock swings in the days ahead, after the S&P 500-stock index fell more than 4.6 percent last week, its worst weekly drop since March. A trade truce between the U.S. and China has already come under strain over the arrest of a prominent Chinese technology executive.

Markets in Asia closed lower today; European stocks also fell.

If you missed it yesterday: China summoned the U.S. ambassador to Beijing to protest the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei. Separately, Robert Lighthizer, who is leading trade talks, said he considered March 1 to be a “a hard deadline” for the negotiations.

More turnover in the Trump administration

President Trump is looking for a new chief of staff, after announcing over the weekend that John Kelly would leave at the end of the year.

Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence and a leading contender to replace Mr. Kelly, said on Sunday that he would leave the administration at the end of the year.

Looking ahead: Among the possible candidates are Representative Mark Meadows, a North Carolina Republican; the Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin; Mr. Trump’s budget director, Mick Mulvaney; and the U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer.

Catch up: Mr. Trump said on Friday that he would nominate William Barr, who served as attorney general in the first Bush administration, to lead the Justice Department again. The president also confirmed that he would nominate Heather Nauert, a former “Fox & Friends” host, to replace Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations.

Prosecutors shift from Michael Cohen to Trump executives

After recommending a substantial prison term for President Trump’s former lawyer, federal prosecutors are turning their attention to other Trump Organization executives and to what they might have known about crimes committed in connection with the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr. Cohen, who pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws and other crimes, is to be sentenced on Wednesday. Prosecutors have accused Mr. Trump of directing illegal payments to ward off a possible sex scandal that could have damaged his chances of winning the election.

Closer look: Prosecutors said Mr. Cohen offered only “selective cooperation” in the case, which is separate from the investigation by the special counsel, Robert Mueller.

From Opinion: The sentencing memos filed on Friday suggest that Mr. Trump and others might have been involved in lies told by Mr. Cohen and Paul Manafort, a New York University law professor writes.

Your phone’s apps know where you were last night

And they’re not keeping it a secret.

Most people know that apps can track their movements, but as technology becomes more accurate, snooping on people’s daily habits has grown more intrusive. Sales of location-targeted advertising are set to reach $21 billion this year.

Dozens of companies say the information they collect and sell to advertisers is anonymous, but a Times investigation shows how personal that data is.

How we know: The Times reviewed a database with information from more than a million phones in the New York area. It reveals people’s travels in startling detail, accurate to within a few yards and in some cases updated more than 14,000 times a day. Read more about our reporters’ methodology here.

For you: Here’s how to tell if apps are sharing your location and how to stop them.

The Daily: On today’s episode, our reporters discuss their investigation.

If you have 8 minutes, this is worth it

A fight over fighting global warming

When Justin Trudeau became Canada’s prime minister three years ago, tackling climate change was near the top of his agenda. Putting a price on carbon pollution was his government’s weapon of choice.

The way that’s playing out is a lesson in just how hard a carbon tax might be.

Here’s what else is happening

French president to break silence: After a fourth weekend of violent protests over economic inequality, President Emmanuel Macron is to address the nation today, his first substantive public answer to the so-called Yellow Vest movement.

A key week for Brexit: Parliament is expected to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s unpopular plan for leaving the European Union on Tuesday. The bloc’s top court ruled today that Britain could legally cancel its decision to withdraw, offering hope to those who want to remain.

Deadline for Congress: U.S. lawmakers face a deadline next week to avert a partial government shutdown. Funding for President Trump’s proposed wall on the southern border is a major sticking point.

Indictment for former Nissan chief: Carlos Ghosn, the former chairman of Nissan Motor, and the company itself were accused by prosecutors in Japan today of violating financial laws by underreporting his compensation.

Snowstorm in the South: Both North Carolina and Virginia declared a state of emergency after a powerful storm left hundreds of thousands without power.

Snapshot: Above, women soaked in a hot spring as they competed in a hot pepper-eating contest in Jiangxi Province in China on Sunday. The winner ate 20 peppers in one minute.

In memoriam: Rosanell Eaton, a lifelong devotee of voting rights, was hailed by President Barack Obama in 2015 for her role fighting a restrictive North Carolina voting law that later reached the Supreme Court. She was 97.

Theater reviews: Our critics highly recommend two plays that opened Sunday night in New York. “The Jungle,” imported from London, places its audience at the fraught center of a migrant camp in France. And “Slave Play” unpacks interracial relationships both antebellum and postmodern.

N.F.L. results: Using a play that almost never works, the Miami Dolphins scored a last-second touchdown to beat the New England Patriots. Here are the scores from Week 14.

What we’re listening to: This interview with Wilco’s frontman, Jeff Tweedy, from NPR’s “All Songs Considered.” Mike Ives, a reporter in our Hong Kong office, calls it “great listening not just for Wilco fans, but anyone interested in the art of songwriting or the relationship between pain and creativity.”

Now, a break from the news

Cook: Looking for homey comfort food? Make one-pot rice and beans for dinner.

Read: This charming piece by Taffy Brodesser-Akner on how “Clueless” is becoming a musical more than 20 years after the film was released.

Watch: Peter Hedges narrates a scene from his film “Ben Is Back,” featuring his son Lucas Hedges and Julia Roberts.

Listen to: Our critics’ picks for the best pop albums of the year. There are 28 to enjoy.

Smarter Living: Memes from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission remind us how to stay safe this holiday season. A few examples: “Stand by your pan” as you make your seasonal specialties (to avoid kitchen fires) — and make sure fire extinguishers and smoke alarms work.

And here’s our gift guide, with suggestions that include a visual history of hip-hop and a Rick and Morty cartoon card game.

And now for the Back Story on …

A Nobel tradition

This evening in Stockholm, Nobel laureates will feast on a banquet with Swedish royalty after receiving their Nobel Prizes. It’s one of many traditions associated with the 117-year-old honors.

But another — in which laureates are awakened at the Grand Hotel Stockholm by young women in white carrying candles — may be fading into history.

The ceremony reflects a Swedish custom honoring St. Lucia, who represents the triumph of light over darkness.

But a manager at the hotel said that the tradition would not continue this year “due to fire risk” in the laureates’ rooms. A version will still take place in the lobby and in one of the hotel’s restaurants.

Not every Nobel laureate enjoyed the wake-up call.

When women wearing white came to the American novelist Saul Bellow in 1976, for example, he was irritated.

“I scowled, and then my face formed the smile which is obligatory on such occasions,” he later told a biographer.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
To Eleanor Stanford for the cultural smarts, and Kenneth R. Rosen and James K. Williamson for the Smarter Living tips. Mike Ives, a reporter in our Hong Kong office, wrote today’s Back Story. You can reach the team at [email protected]

P.S.
• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Today’s episode is about The Times’s investigation of the sale of smartphone data.
• Here’s today’s mini crossword puzzle, and a clue: Charged particle (3 letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• Editors at The New York Times have held afternoon news meetings on weekdays since 1946.

Chris Stanford is based in London and writes the U.S. version of the Morning Briefing. He also compiles a weekly news quiz. He was previously a producer for the desktop home page and mobile site, helping to present The New York Times’s news report to readers. Before joining The Times in 2013, he was an editor and designer at The Washington Post and other news organizations. @stanfordc

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Theresa May launches bid to ‘improve’ Brexit deal to avoid crushing defeat

Theresa May is trying to improve her Brexit deal to avoid a crushing defeat, a member of the Cabinet confirmed today.

Michael Gove admitted the Prime Minister wants to secure a new concession after she phoned EU chief Donald Tusk and Ireland’s Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last night.

"Of course we can improve this deal, and the Prime Minister is seeking to improve this deal," the Environment Secretary told the BBC.

European Council President Mr Tusk added: "It will be an important week for the fate of Brexit."

It comes amid frenzied speculation Mrs May could postpone a Commons vote on her Brexit deal tomorrow night to buy more time.

She is widely expected to lose the vote by a landslide – which could trigger a leadership crisis.

Her plans were thrown into further chaos this morning by the European Court of Justice – which confirmed the UK can cancel Brexit altogether if it wants to.

Today Mr Gove insisted "the vote is going ahead".

He added: "The alternatives to supporting this deal are either potentially no Brexit, a victory for the People’s Vote campaign and the hardcore remainers who want to thwart democracy.

"Or we could have a situation we have the very uncomfortable circumstances of no deal."

The 585-page withdrawal deal is already signed, including the "backstop".

This is a clause which will keep the UK under EU customs rules after 2020 if there’s no agreement on the Irish border.

Currently the EU has a veto on whether the UK quits the backstop, prompting fears a ‘half-in-half-out’ Brexit will be dangled over Britain for years on end.

However Mrs May could try and secure new wording in the 26-page "political declaration" which EU leaders agreed.

Mr Gove insisted the EU had already compromised.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: "The backstop has been depicted by some as a vice for the United Kingdom – and clearly there are uncomfortable aspects to it.

"But, for the European Union, they have done what they said they would never do in these negotiations.

"They have split the four freedoms, they have allowed us to cherry-pick, and it will be the case for EU politicians, incredibly uncomfortable, and have to explain to their electorates that they are allowing unimpeded access for British goods into their markets, while Britain is not paying for that access and Britain has control of its borders."

Will Theresa May win the Brexit deal vote?

Theresa May has a Brexit deal, but the danger is looming that it will be defeated in the House of Commons.

Even getting it past her Cabinet forced Esther McVey and Dominic Raab to resign. Now she faces one more hurdle – a vote in Parliament on December 11.

MPs are grouped in several factions – their warring opinions are explained more fully here.

But if 318 or more vote against the deal, they will defeat the deal.

Against the deal

TORY BREXITEERS: There are up to about 80, led by Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, threatening to vote down a deal that keeps Britain trapped in "vassalage" with Brussels. Not all are expected to live up to their threats.

TORY HARD REMAINERS: Only about a dozen, but many – including Justine Greening and Jo Johnson – will vote against, instead wanting a second referendum.

DUP: Theresa May’s Northern Irish allies – who she handed £1.5bn – are 10-strong. They say they will vote down the deal.

LABOUR LOYALISTS: About 150 MPs are consistently loyal to Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit. They’ll be told to vote against the deal because it doesn’t meet Labour’s ‘six tests’.

LABOUR REMAINERS: There are about 50 hard Remainer Labour MPs. They’re likely to oppose the deal to avoid enabling a Brexit.

OTHERS: The SNP (35), Lib Dems (12), Plaid Cymru (4) and Greens (1) are all likely to vote against.

For the deal

TORY LOYALISTS: Well over 200 are likely to vote with Theresa May, for the deal. Many have paid government jobs – so would have to quit if they oppose her.

‘NERVOUS LABOUR’: Some Labour MPs could BACK a deal – fearing otherwise Britain will be plunged into an even worse No Deal. There could be 20 or more. Caroline Flint is among them.

Unknown

LABOUR BREXITEERS: There are only about half a dozen. It was generally thought they’d side with Theresa May, but Kate Hoey MP broke ranks and said she could vote against.

It came amid a new tumult between Tory ministers and rebels, more than 100 of whom have warned they could vote the deal down.

Alan Duncan, a Remainer minister, tore into "wreckers" like Boris Johnson, who refused to rule out a leadership bid.

He said Boris Johnson would be "met with a very, very loud raspberry in many, many different languages" if he walked into a negotiating room in Brussels.

And he warned: "Let’s be absolutely clear that if this goes pear-shaped in the way that it really could on the back of people opposing the deal that is on offer tomorrow night, the wreckers in history will forever be known as the wreckers."

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Latest Brexit news

  • Top court rules UK can cancel Brexit
  • May’s last ditch bid to ‘improve’ deal
  • Tory leadership rivals mount up
  • Labour ready for power on Wednesday
  • How the ‘hell week’ could play out
  • Summary of the deal and sticking points
  • Will Theresa May win the Commons vote?
  • What will No Deal really mean?

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UK cabinet minister floats 'Plan B' before key vote on May's Brexit deal

LONDON (REUTERS) – A close ally of British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday (Dec 8) became the first cabinet minister to float a possible Plan B if, as expected, parliament next week rejects her proposal to leave the European Union.

With her own future in the balance, May insists her deal, laboriously negotiated with the EU over many months, is the only one on the table and that the alternatives are a painful’no-deal’ exit from the EU or possibly no Brexit at all.

However, members of parliament, including from May’s own Conservative Party, look set to reject her deal, which envisages continued close ties with the EU, in a move that would pitch the world’s fifth-largest economy into even deeper uncertainty.

While agreeing with May that her deal provides the best option for exiting the EU, Amber Rudd, the work and pensions minister, said a Norway-style relationship with the bloc might also offer a way out of the current deadlock.

“If it (May’s plan) doesn’t get through anything could happen: people’s vote, Norway plus, any of these options could come forward,” she told BBC radio on Saturday.

Rudd told The Times newspaper in an interview her own preferred option, if May’s deal failed, was the “Norway Plus”model, adding it “seems plausible not just in terms of the country but in terms of where the MPs are”.

Norway is not an EU member but is in the bloc’s single market, which allows for free movement of goods, capital, services and people. ‘Norway plus’ envisages Britain also staying in the EU’s customs union, which Norway is not in.

Senior officials on both sides of the EU-UK negotiations on May’s deal have voiced scepticism to Reuters about the “Norway pivot” idea, saying it seems far removed from British demands for more control over rules and could need lengthy new talks.

Some pro-EU lawmakers have also expressed support for a second referendum on EU membership, or ‘a people’s vote’.

MAY’S LEADERSHIP QUESTIONED

The Times reported on Saturday that plans were being made across party lines to vote against May’s leadership if she loses Tuesday’s vote. The Daily Telegraph quoted a senior Conservative lawmaker as saying she might be forced to resign.

Rudd said she believed May should stay on as prime minister even if parliament rejects her Brexit deal. “There is no question of her going,” Rudd told the BBC.

The Times said the main opposition Labour Party was seeking an alliance with rebel Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party, the small Northern Irish party which props up May’s minority government, to call a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister.

That vote would not be binding but would place enormous pressure on May to resign, it added.

Conservative lawmaker and former leader Iain Duncan Smith was quoted in the Telegraph as saying her leadership could come into question if she lost Tuesday’s vote.

“I believe that if (May’s) response is ‘we’ve lost but we will do this all over again’, it will become a leadership issue,” he was quoted as saying.

The newspaper also said three ministers were considering resigning in opposition to her deal, without citing sources.

If the Brexit deal is rejected, ministers have 21 days to state how they intend to proceed. The government has previously said that if the agreement is rejected, Britain will leave the EU without a deal.

May’s spokesman said on Friday the vote would go ahead next week despite calls from some lawmakers for it to be delayed to avoid a defeat so big that it might bring down the government.

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Northern Irish party DUP says would not topple British government in confidence vote

LONDON (REUTERS) – The Northern Irish party that props up Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government would not vote to topple her in a confidence vote even if she loses a key vote on her Brexit deal next week, DUP lawmaker Sammy Wilson said.

“We would certainly not vote to topple the government because we would have no reason to do so,” he told BBC radio.

But Mr Wilson said the DUP reserved the right to withdraw support for the government at a future date.

Mrs May wants to secure Parliament’s approval in a Dec 11 vote for her deal to keep close ties with the EU after leaving in March, but opposition is fierce, with Brexit supporters and opponents alike wanting to thwart or derail her plan.

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Britain's PM May urges lawmakers to back her Brexit deal but rebels remain unconvinced

LONDON (REUTERS) – British Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday (Dec 6) urged lawmakers to back her agreement to leave the European Union, but made little headway with a bid to coax rebellious members of her party into supporting her deal.

May has repeatedly warned that if lawmakers reject her deal with Brussels, which would see Britain exit the EU on March 29 with continued close ties, the only alternatives are leaving without a deal or reversing Brexit.

The British Parliament is mid-way through a five-day debate on the Brexit deal, ahead of a crunch vote on Dec 11 which will define Britain’s departure from the EU and could determine May’s own future as leader. She currently looks set to lose that vote.

The day before the vote, on Dec 10, the European Court of Justice of Justice will deliver a judgment on whether Britain can unilaterally reverse its move to leave.

“There are three options: one is to leave the European Union with a deal… the other two are that we leave without a deal or that we have no Brexit at all,” May told BBC radio.

May said she was speaking to lawmakers about giving Parliament a bigger role in whether to trigger a so-called Northern Irish backstop arrangement or extend a transition period during which more EU membership terms would apply.

CHARM OFFENSIVE?

Concerns about the backstop are a key driver of opposition to the deal among both May’s own Conservative lawmakers and the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up her minority government.

Supporters of a clean break with the EU say the backstop, intended to ensure no hard border between British-ruled Northern Ireland and the EU-member Irish Republic, could leave Britain forced to accept EU regulations indefinitely, or Northern Ireland treated differently from the rest of Britain.

“There are questions about how decisions are taken as to whether we go into the backstop, because that isn’t an automatic,” she said.

“The question is: do we go into the backstop? Do we extend… the implementation period?”

On Wednesday, May’s top parliamentary enforcer, or chief whip, Julian Smith, spent an hour meeting with pro-Brexit Conservative and DUP lawmakers, listening to their concerns about the deal. But lawmakers who attended the meeting said he did not offer a solution to persuade them to back it.

“This was not about doing deals, it was about listening,” said one leading pro-Brexit lawmaker.

Another said it was “too little, too late”.

May’s minority government governs with a working majority of 13 thanks to its deal with the 10 DUP lawmakers.

The DUP says it will vote against the deal but would support May in a vote of confidence if the deal fails.

During the first two days of debate, 15 of May’s own lawmakers have explicitly said they intend to vote against it. She will either need to win them back or win over a substantial number of opposition lawmakers, which appears unlikely.

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