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Good morning. “No realistic path” for a quick vote on $2,000 stimulus checks, Mitch McConnell says. The U.S. vaccine campaign is off to a slow start. But first: Brexit.
More than four years after Britain voted to leave the European Union, new travel and trade rules will go into effect tomorrow, concluding a saga that has divided Britons and dominated British politics.
The two sides reached an agreement last week, after nearly a year of trade negotiations. Yesterday, Britain’s Parliament approved the deal. Tomorrow brings the end of free movement of people between Britain and the E.U.
I talked to Mark Landler, The Times’s London bureau chief, about what it all means and what comes next. (Our conversation has been edited for brevity.)
CLAIRE: How will the new relationship between Britain and the E.U. affect people’s everyday lives?
MARK: The purpose of the 1,200-page trade deal between Britain and the E.U. was to avoid very disruptive changes, such as tariffs and quotas. But there will be an array of other bureaucratic requirements that did not exist before Jan. 1.
People won’t see a sudden shift in the price of fresh fruit and vegetables in London supermarkets. But it’ll have an impact on Britons who, for example, want to bring their dog on vacation to the continent or who want to get a job somewhere in the E.U.
Trade. Travel. Anything else?
Britain withdrew from the Erasmus exchange program, which allowed British students to study in E.U. countries and vice versa. It’s one highly visible example of things that will change in the post-Brexit era.
Something else, which may take a little bit longer to play out, is this idea of separatism and independence. Scotland, for example, was against Brexit, and it could fuel a new push to break off from the rest of Britain.
What will this mean for Britain’s economy?
A lot of stuff still needs to be negotiated. A major driving force of the British economy is the services sector, including legal, financial, consulting and other services. Virtually none of that is covered yet in the trade agreement.
How did the pandemic affect the process?
Without it, the negotiations for the trade deal would have been the biggest story in the country. But Brexit was almost completely overshadowed by the coronavirus. Britain is preoccupied with this health crisis, which will muffle the immediate effects of Brexit. But over time those will become more visible. Which means that the debate over Brexit may not be finished in the country.
Will this deliver the “global Britain” that pro-Brexit campaigners hoped for?
One of the driving arguments in favor of Brexit was throwing off the shackles of the E.U., so that Britain would become this agile, dynamic, independent economy that could strike deals with everyone in the world. But rising protectionism and populism have made making free-trade agreements harder. The “global Britain” arguments looked more valid in May 2016 than in January 2021. In a way, the Brexit vision is four and a half years too late.
THE LATEST NEWS
With the new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus detected in Colorado and California, scientists fear it has already gained a toehold in the U.S. The variant’s arrival also makes it all the more important that Americans receive vaccinations in great numbers, and more quickly, scientists said.
Officials from Operation Warp Speed, the federal effort to accelerate vaccine development and distribution, said that the U.S. vaccination campaign is off to a slower-than-expected start.
Around 2.6 million Americans have received their first dose, the C.D.C. said, far short of the goal of 20 million by the end of 2020.
The British government will use its initial vaccine supply to give as many people as possible a first dose, rather than holding back half the supply for second doses. The approach expands the number of people who can be quickly inoculated, but it could make the shots less effective.
China’s government said that it had approved a homegrown virus vaccine after an early analysis of clinical trial results showed that it was effective.
Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, said there was “no realistic path” for the Senate to pass a stand-alone bill increasing direct stimulus payments to $2,000, effectively killing the prospect for now.
Senator Josh Hawley, Republican of Missouri, said he would object to certifying the Electoral College results when Congress meets next week, answering President Trump’s demand that Republicans challenge the election outcome. The move is unlikely to alter President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Biden will nominate two former Obama administration officials to senior positions at the Defense Department. One of them, Kathleen Hicks, would be the first woman confirmed as deputy secretary of defense.
Since the start of early voting on Dec. 14, more than 2.5 million Georgians have cast ballots in next week’s Senate runoff elections. Polls suggest that the races are too close to call, but Republicans are worried about strong turnout in Democratic areas and mixed messages from Trump.
Other Big Stories
New York is set to open its grand expansion of Penn Station, the Moynihan Train Hall, on Friday. The new station looks nothing like its dingy, subterranean cousin: It has an acre of glass that lets the sun pour down and permanent installations by celebrated artists.
A Minneapolis officer fatally shot a man in an exchange of gunfire during a traffic stop, the first police killing in the city since George Floyd’s death in May.
Critics have assailed Nashville’s police department, saying that the authorities could have done more after Anthony Warner’s girlfriend told the authorities last year that he was building bombs. Officials said they took their inquiry as far as they could at the time.
An attack on an airport in Yemen killed at least 20 civilians just as a plane carrying members of the country’s newly formed government cabinet was arriving.
Chinese and E.U. leaders agreed to make it easier for companies to operate on each other’s territory, a significant geopolitical victory for China. But political opposition in Europe and Washington could still derail the pact.
From Opinion: Here are the major trends that affected Americans this year, visualized in 11 charts by Steven Rattner, a former Obama administration official, and our colleague Lalena Fisher. They range from political polarization to job losses (pictured above).
Lives Lived: Dawn Wells radiated all-American wholesomeness as Mary Ann on the 1960s sitcom “Gilligan’s Island.” She stuck with the role even after the show went off the air, appearing as Mary Ann on several other programs including “Alf” and “Baywatch.” Wells died, of complications from Covid, at 82.
Subscriber support helped make Times journalism possible this year. If you’re not already a subscriber, please consider becoming one today.
ARTS AND IDEAS
The year of fandom
By Sanam Yar
Beyoncé’s BeyHive. The BTS Army. Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters.
In 2020, loving a singer doesn’t just mean liking the music. It means tracking your favorite artist’s streaming statistics with the zeal of die-hard sports fans. It means organizing online with other fans to boost album sales. It even means raising more than $1 million for charity to match a star’s donation.
Over the past decade, social media has helped turn fandom into a 24-hour job, The Times culture reporter Joe Coscarelli writes. And unlike admirers of sprawling franchises like “Star Wars” or the Marvel universe, music fans often devote all of their efforts to a single artist or band.
That makes it a lot more personal. “You see yourself in your favorite artists — you associate with them, whether it’s just the music or it’s their personality,” one Lady Gaga fan told The Times. “So when someone insults your favorite artist, you take that as a personal insult, and then you find yourself spending hours trying to convince someone in China that ‘Born This Way’ was her best album.”
To understand how pop music fandom got here, read the rest of Joe’s article here.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Pull out all the stops for New Year’s Eve with this mushroom Bourguignon.
10 … 9 … 8 …
The ball will still drop tonight, but for the first time in decades, Times Square will be closed to the public on New Year’s Eve.
New Year’s Around the World
Here is how other cities will say goodbye to 2020.
Did You Know?
Here are 74 fun facts that appeared in The Times this year.
Now Time to Play
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was executant. Today’s puzzle is above — or you can play online if you have a Games subscription.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Buffoon (five letters).
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow, and a happy New Year. — Claire
P.S. In case you missed it, yesterday’s newsletter featured a 2020 news quiz, put together by the Morning team. You can play it here. Fair warning: It’s tough!
You can see today’s print front page here.
Today, “The Daily” revisits an episode about Genie Chance, a journalist who held Alaska together after a major earthquake.
Ian Prasad Philbrick contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at email@example.com.
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