Post-virus – and after Brexit – everything is going to change. That’s the dominant view of national and international media. But how exactly do they see the future? This regular digest section gives some of their answers and views/Edited by George Hamilton
In this edition (June 17)
BREXIT: As the EU/UK trade talks heat up, the mood music on the UK side is improving. Following Monday’s positive piece in the Daily Telegraph, yesterday’s Times was also upbeat about a good outcome. But Robert Shrimsley in the FT warns the UK still faces hard choices it hasn’t faced up to yet.
EU/UK trade talks: EU preparing to row back on rights to fish in British waters
- Brussels is preparing to back down over a Brexit fishing deal and acknowledge for the first time that European fleets do not have an automatic right to fish in British waters.
The UK’s fight for free trade cannot be fudged
- Deals require hard choices and the courage to compromise — the early signs are worrying
‘Dublin power sharing deal may see Irish politics change forever’: Irish Times
- NI media coverage of politics “down south” is fairly sparse, reflecting the view that it is not very relevant to us here. But this change in Dublin is massive and will undoubtedly affect NI.
Coronavirus leaves one in 10 UK charities facing bankruptcy this year
- Study reveals sector struggling with £10bn funding shortfall as demand for services rises
Pavements aren’t big enough for all of us, so cities must change
- At the heart of the unfolding debate about Britain’s once crowded urban centres lies a pedestrian problem.
In a concession to help to unlock negotiations, Michel Barnier is understood to accept that the UK will have to be treated as an independent coastal state and have annual negotiations with the bloc over fishing quotas from next year.
The EU’s chief negotiator told European diplomats that the compromise would have to wait until other parts of the deal were closer to being finalised.
British and European leaders authorised Mr Barnier and David Frost, the UK’s negotiator, to scope out the parameters of a compromise privately.
Until now one of the sticking points has been fishing: the EU maintains that Britain must respect the right of EU member states’ fleets to access UK waters on the same terms as the present common fisheries agreement. Under those rules European boats operating in UK waters catch about five times the value of fish that British fishermen catch in EU waters.
In a significant change in position Mr Barnier accepted the British principle of so-called zonal attachment. EU fishing fleets would have no automatic right to fish in the UK’s exclusive economic zone, which encompasses the sea around Britain stretching in places up to a distance of 200 miles from the coastline.
Both sides would negotiate reciprocal access to each other’s waters every year, however, as the EU does with Norway. This would give the government leverage to increase the share of the total allowable catch that can be caught by the UK fishing fleet.
“To dilute the influence of France and the other coastal states, Barnier needs to have the whole trade deal, which stands or falls on fishing,” a senior EU diplomatic source said.
A UK government source added: “There have been signals that this is an area where Mr Barnier wants to move, but as yet there are no firm proposals on the table.”
After the joint statement from both sides Mr Barnier now has the authority to discuss areas of compromise with Mr Frost even if they are not strictly within the negotiating mandate set down by the EU 27 leaders. The Times June 16
Robert Shrimsley: Free trade requires trade-offs. Who knew? The answer, it seems, is not enough of the UK’s ruling Conservative party. Shortly before the last election, one cabinet minister noted ominously that decades of delegating trade policy to the EU had left British politicians unready for the scale of the fights new agreements provoke. “We’ve been sheltered for so long. I don’t think everyone realises what a hot political issue this is going to be.”
As Tories start to face those hard choices outside the protection of a large trading bloc, the early signs are worrying for free traders. In February, Boris Johnson, the prime minister, pledged to be a force for free trade in a speech flush with high-minded rhetoric. Free trade was to be the Brexit dividend. The US, along with Japan, Australia and New Zealand are the first targets, followed perhaps by membership of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That even a US trade deal would add less than 0.2 per cent to UK gross domestic product over 15 years, compared with a 5 per cent hit from the loss of EU trade, was moot. At times it seems as if the win of getting a deal matters more than its contents.
Leaving aside the contradiction of espousing free trade while restricting it with your largest market, the party is full of “free trade but”-ers. Some believe in free trade but worry about farmers and environmental protections; others want an EU deal but fret about Britain’s tiny fishing industry. Still more want state support to build national resilience. Each has a point, but the combined effect will dilute or even threaten any agreement.
But having drawn a red line around the NHS in any US deal, the UK needs to give ground on agriculture.
The headline cases are UK bans on chemical-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef. Ms Truss and Mr Eustice have promised to maintain food safety standards. But in truth these are not food safety issues. The chemical wash, for example, is to remove the hygiene risks of lower animal welfare standards. The real issue is economic protection for higher standards.
The UK’s answer is a dual-tariff system, which opens markets to US imports but offers lower duties to goods that meet higher standards. This leaves the choice to consumers, but market solutions are not regulations so the dual tariff must weaken animal welfare and environmental protections. But if this is the position it would be better to argue the case than hope people will not notice.
There are other trade-offs. Data service liberalisation may mean accepting that data on citizens will not be stored in the UK and even a pared down EU free trade deal may founder on protection for the fishing industry.
Then there is Project Defend, the initiative to build UK resilience of supply initially in about 30 key areas ranging from transformers to paracetamol. Tied to it is the rising anxiety over dependence on Chinese imports and solutions, including tougher rules on foreign takeovers, onshoring and tie-ups with allies. The danger is not the tight focus on resilience. Ministers and officials know the trade risk of overreach. But it all bolsters a protectionist mindset.
These issues will intensify. It is an easy job to scare people against trade deals. Private polling will often support protectionism and Tory MPs are already in a nervous state. If Mr Johnson is to live up to his rhetoric, he will have to make the case for his cause and its difficult trade-offs. This is no longer an issue that can be slipped past the public. Of late, he has looked less like a man with a stomach for hard choices, but the fight for free trade is not for the faint-hearted. Financial Times June 16
Pat Leahy, Political Editor: One of the reasons that Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have run every government since the 1920s is that they have been supremely responsive to the evolving whims of their voters, and endlessly pliable in changing times.
Now, almost 100 years after the foundation of the State, the two old rivals perform their greatest ever feat of political acrobatics – agreeing to share power, not just with each other, but with the Green Party, regarded by many of their rural footsoldiers as a threat to their way of life. If they can pull it off, it will be some manoeuvre, all the same.
My hunch is that if this government is a success – in sticking together, in achieving most of its objectives, in leading the country out of the coronavirus crisis – then it will establish a natural alliance between the two parties in the future. They will never be one party; but they might as well be.
It won’t end the rivalry, of course. That is too deep-seated to evaporate in a few years; it will last for a few generations more. But the alliance will realign Irish politics. The Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael cleavage has been less and less important in elections since 2011; in future, the left-right rivalry is likely to be more important than the Civil War one.
The radical left and Sinn Féin are already decrying the deal, and their online allies will savage the people who have put it together. There will be especial spleen reserved for the Greens, who will be accused of betraying the “change” for which people voted in February. But they expect that; it goes with politics nowadays. And Sinn Féin will relish a future in which the party gets to lead the opposition, and prepare – realistically – to lead a Dublin government.
The Greens took a clear-eyed view of their political strength and drove a hard bargain, securing key concessions, including the do-or-die 7 per cent annual reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The main points of the programme for government [show that] it’s clear that the lengthy document is strongly Green influenced. The carbon tax will go up (likely to be targeted by opponents as “Green austerity”), the planned liquid natural gas terminal on the Shannon estuary will be abandoned and there will be massive injection – a million euro a day – in walking and cycling infrastructure. They’ll have problems spending it all.
The 7 per cent will be difficult and few Fine Gaelers and Fianna Fáilers believe it will achieved in full, every year. But they also know it will be underpinned by law, and can’t be ignored, long-fingered, pushed off the agenda. They know the Greens will be on their case about it every day. It will be by some distance the most radical environmental measure an Irish government has ever adopted.
There is, of course, no guarantee that the thing will get off the ground at all. While the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael organisations are expected to ratify the agreement – though not without a fight in the former, and some reluctance in the latter – a rejection is hardly impossible, if unlikely. But the real battle will be in the Greens, where the anti-establishment tribe is numerous, and the two-thirds majority a high bar to clear. It will be a fight for the soul of the party.
The deal has already discommoded some people; others are infuriated. The public, an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll suggests, are not exactly dancing in the streets to welcome it. But on balance, they seem content that it go ahead. Like many in the parties involved – they’re not in love with it. But they don’t have a better idea.
Whatever your view, you can hardly argue it’s not a change. It’s a big moment. Irish politics may be about to change forever. Irish Times June 15
One in 10 UK charities are facing bankruptcy by the end of the year as they struggle to cope with a £10bn shortfall caused by soaring demand for their services and lost fundraising income due to the coronavirus pandemic, a study shows.
The analysis by Pro Bono Economics, an independent charity, says the coronavirus crisis will trigger a £6.4bn loss of income for charities over the next six months just as demand for extra services – ranging from health to debt advice and social care – piles on extra costs of £3.7bn.
There are just under 170,000 general charities in the UK, sharing a total annual income of about £51bn, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO). The vast majority are small charities, meaning they have income of under £100,000. Larger charities (£1m upwards) account for about a fifth of the sector but 80% of its income.
Smaller locally based charities are especially exposed to the crisis, the study said, with nearly two-thirds reporting they have already made “significant” cuts to services and one in eight (13%) expecting to go to the wall within months. Two-thirds were unable to furlough staff because this would mean having to stop providing services.
Household-name charities are also facing serious problems, with some saying the sudden rise in operating costs since the lockdown in March has forced them to use public donations to prop up services they provide under contract to local authorities and central government.
They include the National Trust, which has identified a shortfall of £200m this year, Age UK, which is reporting a £42m loss of income, and Cancer Research UK, which has warned it will lose about £120m in donated income over the next 12 months.
“If we don’t funnel more resource to charities in the coming weeks, it’s clear that many will struggle to survive,” said Matt Whittaker, the chief executive of Pro Bono Economics.
“The fact that one in 10 charities expect to go under in the next six months is on its own a shocking enough statistic. But once we add in the significant constraints being faced by many of those organisations that do survive, we’re looking at a huge hit to the overall capacity of the sector.”
Whittaker said the government’s £750m bailout fund for the voluntary sector announced in April was not enough given the scale of the problem. The crisis would undermine the charity sector’s ability to nurture and encourage the upsurge of volunteering and community spirit that has emerged over the past three months.
Wilding said the charities most likely to be hit by rising demand and falling income were those working in housing, social care, mental health and in disadvantaged communities. “The crisis has not been a great leveller for charities: some are hit harder than others. We must remember that these are organisations that people depend upon,” he said. Guardian June 9
The current demands of social distancing can only rarely accommodate snaking queues of shoppers keeping two metres away from each other outside supermarkets and pharmacies, while passing walkers struggle to find space without stepping into busy roads.
Some of the ideas for a new urban landscape have already been tested in Britain, with others borrowed from Holland, Denmark, America and elsewhere.
Not the least of the complications is that a lot of people may remain fearful of public transport, whether or not all passengers wear masks. Many of the proposed solutions spell misery for any motorists who prefer their own cars to buses and trains.
In London, Manchester, Bristol and other cities, pavements are already being extended into car lanes where long lines of plastic barriers are shrinking the road space for cars.
Busier shopping streets in smaller places such as Harpenden, Bishop’s Stortford and St Albans, all in Hertfordshire, have been temporarily pedestrianised — to the joy of campaigners who had fought without success for 20 years or more to close town centres to cars.
Doncaster is planning a “keep left” pedestrian flow on its busiest pavements. Newcastle, Oxford and Chester are among cities planning similar measures.
Other solutions are cheap and simple but can be “massively effective”, Deegan said. They include “decluttering” pavements of obstacles to movement — advertising boards, defunct phone boxes and the like. Cars may wait longer and more often at pedestrian crossings to reduce crowding at kerbs, where guardrails may be removed to avoid penning in pedestrians. The Times June 10