The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on March 29, 2019. But as the date approaches, important aspects of the withdrawal agreement as well as the future relationship between the U.K. and EU, particularly on trade, remain unresolved. Nowhere are the stakes higher than in Northern Ireland, where the re-imposition of a hard border with Ireland could threaten a hard-fought peace. Scotland, which voted resoundingly against Brexit, has raised questions about the future of devolved governance arrangements in the U.K., while the independence question remains alive. As Robert Bosch Senior Fellow Amanda Sloat writes in her recent report “Divided kingdom: How Brexit is remaking the UK’s constitutional order,” “Brexit will alter not one but two unions: the European Union and the United Kingdom.”
On October 23, 2018, the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings hosted a panel discussion on the Brexit endgame. It examined what the decisions of the coming weeks could mean for the U.K., Ireland and Northern Ireland, Scotland, the European Union, and the United States. Sloat was joined on the panel by Douglas Alexander, former U.K. Secretary of State for Scotland and Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Lucinda Creighton, former Irish Minister for European Affairs; and Sir Kim Darroch, British Ambassador to the United States. Edward Luce of the Financial Times moderated the discussion.
This discussion is part of the Brookings – Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative, which aims to build up and expand resilient networks and trans-Atlantic activities to analyze and work on issues concerning trans-Atlantic relations and social cohesion in Europe and the United States.
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President López Obrador's extension of the term of Supreme Court chief Arturo Zaldívar is part of his strong effort to recentralize power in the Mexican presidency and hollow out the independence and power of other Mexican institutions. His other moves to bend the justice system to his will include a reform that lowered the salary of judges but did not improve the quality of prosecutors and his unwillingness to allow an independent selection of the attorney general, with López Obrador himself retaining the power of appointment. His latest move with the two-year extension of Zaldívar’s term is especially worrisome. Zaldívar is also the president of the powerful Federal Judiciary Council. The council appoints and dismisses judges, sets career advancement rules and disciplines judges. Zaldívar will be setting the council’s and, thus, the whole judiciary’s, agenda and priorities for two years. This allows López Obrador to influence how courts will rule in cases regarding the executive branch, what cases they take up and the legality of new policies. These moves are taking place when the effectiveness of the judiciary in Mexico remains limited and deeply concerning. The attorney general’s office has proven weak, unwilling to take up key cases such as against the suspects in the brazen attack on Mexico City’s security minister, Omar García Harfuch—an event that symbolized the impunity with which Mexican criminal groups operate. Mexico’s justice system showed itself equally meek and disappointing in inadequately investigating the alleged complicity of former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos and dismissing the case, potentially the most significant case of corruption and criminal collusion charges against a high-ranking Mexican official in two decades. A decade and a half after Mexico initiated its justice system reforms, 95 percent of federal cases still go unpunished. President López Obrador has scored some points, but the already precariously weak rule of law in Mexico, and thus the Mexican people, will suffer.