Untimely rift

Balance of Power
Bloomberg

Boris Johnson has lost one of his most trusted advisers in a bitter power struggle — at potentially the most sensitive time possible.

The U.K. is in lockdown again, Covid-19 deaths have soared past 50,000 and there are just days left to complete a new trade deal with the European Union before it's too late.

The exit of Lee Cain, the prime minister's chief spin doctor, is more than just a blow to the government's already battered communications strategy. He has been at Johnson's side for years and, along with controversial chief adviser Dominic Cummings, ran the premier's political operation.

This week, Cain was linked to the role of chief of staff in Johnson's office. But the premier was frustrated that he felt cornered into making the appointment when it was leaked to the media before he'd made a final decision. Now Cain has quit and that role remains unfilled.

The question going forward is whether Cain's departure prompts his friend Cummings to quit too, and what the disruption might mean for Brexit talks. Even Johnson's chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, is deeply unhappy with the situation, with officials fearing he could depart.

Cain, Cummings and Johnson go way back, and worked closely on the Vote Leave Brexit campaign in 2016. The trio were not just committed backers of the Brexit project, they were its chief architects and, along with Frost, were responsible for setting the direction of talks with the EU.

Johnson will need to work hard to stop tensions among the group from clouding the government's strategy as negotiations reach crunch time. — Tim Ross

Johnson and Cummings leave 10 Downing Street on Oct. 28 last year.

Photographer: Matt Dunham/AP

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Global Headlines

Different strokes | President-elect Joe Biden has stocked his transition team with policy experts, academics and former Obama administration officials. The roughly 500-person group contrasts with the industry-friendly figures President Donald Trump installed and includes people who favor stronger government regulation, particularly for the financial and energy sectors, as well as greater consumer protections.

  • Biden named long-time aide Ron Klain, who played a leading role during the economic and public health crises of the Obama administration, as White House chief of staff.
  • The Supreme Court has been conspicuously quiet as Trump and his allies press ahead with lawsuits challenging the election results and cite unfounded claims of widespread fraud.

Other Developments

Don't miss the biggest election headlines as they happen. Download Bloomberg's app for Android or for iOS and turn on push notifications.

Glimmer of hope | While the pandemic accelerates across the planet, with global deaths jumping by a daily record of more than 12,000, there are signs it may be cresting in some of the worst-hit European countries. As Thomas Mulier and Chris Reiter explain, infections have begun to ease after governments enacted new restrictions, such as closing non-essential shops, bars and restaurants.

  • Hospitals are filling up across the U.S. as the Midwest suffers a new surge in cases.

Long wait | Fifteen Asia-Pacific nations including China aim to clinch the world's largest free-trade agreement this weekend, the culmination of Beijing's decade-long quest for more economic integration. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which aims to reduce tariffs and codify new e-commerce rules, may hurt some U.S. companies, given Trump withdrew from talks on a separate Asia trade deal formerly known as the TPP.

A protest in India against the RCEP deal on Nov. 4, 2019. India ended up pulling out of negotiations for the trade pact.  

Photographer: Manjunath Kiran/AFP via Getty Images

Fresh start | Biden assured the leaders of Japan and South Korea in phone calls of his commitment to security alliances, signaling he will pursue a markedly different strategy from Trump. Tokyo and Seoul are in talks with the U.S. about the "host-nation support" they pay for tens of thousands of U.S. troops based in their territory; Trump has pressed both of them for far more money, using the threat of cutting troop numbers as leverage.

Policy U-turn | Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled a cease-fire with international investors by pledging to support his new economic managers with market-friendly policies to save the lira. His move came after a week in which he ousted his central bank governor and his treasury minister resigned. Yet as Onur Ant explains, doubts remain over whether future electoral priorities might cause yet another policy reversal.

What to Watch

  • U.K. ministers plan weekly meetings with companies to try to avert disruption caused by Brexit, even if Britain and the EU sign a trade deal.
  • Belize's voters chose opposition candidate John Antonio Briceno as prime minister of the central American nation that's been wracked by floods and the region's worst economic slump.
  • ByteDance hits a long-awaited deadline today that would subject the Chinese internet giant to possible Trump administration penalties if it can't clinch a deal for the U.S. operations of video-sharing app TikTok.

And finally ... Adilson Bolsonaro, Aldo Bolsonaro, Angela Bolsonaro — the list of candidates using the surname Bolsonaro in this weekend's Brazilian municipal elections totals more than 70. Yet none of them are related to the president, Jair. They've simply tacked Bolsonaro onto their registered ballot names to capitalize on the popularity of his Trump-ian brand of conservative politics in the Brazilian hinterland.

A supporter takes a photograph of a banner during Bolsonaro's inauguration in January 2019.

Photographer: Patricia Monteiro/Bloomberg

 

 

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