Long stories short
- Italy declared a state of emergency in five northern regions over the worst drought in 70 years.
- Sudanâs military leader said the army will make way for a civilian government, but did not give a timeline for the handover.
- A former senior civil servant said Boris Johnson knew of a formal complaint about Chris Pincherâs âinappropriate behaviourâ before appointing him deputy chief whip.
Labour and Brexit
Britainâs economy is a mess. Inflation is high, growth is low, the pound is weak, and the countryâs trade performance is the worst since records began in 1955. The official explanations focus on spiralling energy costs and Covid messing up supply chains. But those are problems for all economies. Britain has a particular issue: Brexit.
- Trade as a route to economic recovery is unlikely because new border controls Britain introduced with the EU single market and customs union in January 2021 cut it off from its largest market. Researchers at the London School of Economics found the number of buyer-seller relationships fell by almost one-third.
- Inflation is high because of spiralling energy costs, which are hard for British policymakers to address. But the same LSE researchers found that Brexit increased average food prices by about 6 per cent over 2020 and 2021.
- Investment, which chancellor Rishi Sunak sees as the route to greater prosperity, wonât lead to recovery either. Business investment has flatlined since the Brexit referendum, ending a period of growth that began in 2010 and underperforming other G7 economies.
The answer to these problems appears simple. If Britain wants price stability and economic growth it needs to re-join the single market and the customs union. That is the position of the moderate Conservative Tobias Ellwood MP but heâs in a minority of little more than one. Most politicians wonât say it, even â especially â those who want Labour back in power.
- Tony Blair, who wants to create a new political centre-ground, hosted a conference last week in which he said the arguments over the EU were done. Brexit, he said, wonât be overturned for at least a generation.
- Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, gave a speech last night in which he explicitly ruled out rejoining the EU, the single market and the customs union, and foreswore a return to freedom of movement for good measure. The speech was trailed as a plan to âmake Brexit work.â In fact it was a stark statement of the no-going back position, made out of political necessity, with few details on how heâd actually make it work.Â
Starmer promised a new scheme for goods headed to Northern Ireland, but no detail on what that scheme would look like. He pledged to move a âfatberg of red tape and bureaucracyâ created by Brexit, but said little on how.Â
The planâs only specifics were
- a UK-wide veterinary deal with the EU on agri-products;
- alignment with Brussels on chemical and product safety standards;Â
- mutual recognition of professional qualifications; and
- a push to get the UK back into the Horizon science funding programme.Â
The strategy is to sacrifice some of the supposed benefits of Brexit â the freedom to experiment with GM foods, for instance â for more frictionless European trade. Anything bolder, Starmer deems politically untenable.Â
âHe inherited a smoking ruin of a party,â Tortoiseâs Matthew dâAncona notes. Starmer was a Remainer who fought for a second referendum âbut at some point he had to say âI give up. Iâm not going to bang on about Brexitâ.â
For now, no one in power wants to be seen to be re-litigating a big, democratic exercise that took Britain out of the EU. Starmerâs alternative is a damage limitation exercise leading to closer EU alignment in a slow, stealthy and piecemeal way. The question is whether the economy can wait that long. The signs are it canât.
CAPITALÂ ECONOMY, BUSINESS AND FINANCE
Sri Lanka humanitarian crisis
Sri Lankaâs energy minister said the country had enough petrol left for less than a day. The next shipment isnât due for more than two weeks. There are also shortages of food and medicine, as the nation faces its worst economic crisis since it gained independence from the UK in 1948. The government blames Covid, which hit the countryâs tourist trade, but experts point to economic mismanagement by the Rajapaksa family, which has dominated Sri Lankaâs political elite for the past decade. Unicef warned of a looming humanitarian crisis and appealed for urgent financial aid.
TECHNOLOGYÂ AI, SCIENCE AND NEW THINGS
Perfume to mosquitoes
As if being infected with Zika and dengue fever wasnât bad enough, new research suggests the viruses alter their victimsâ body odour to make them more attractive to mosquitoes. Research published in Cell showed that mice infected with Zika and dengue fever produced ten times more acetophenone, a body odour compound, than uninfected mice, which led to more bites. The good news: the scientists found that giving infected mice vitamin A helped reduce the amount of acetophenone, potentially offering a way of reducing the spread of both diseases in a real-world scenario.Â
The 100-year lifeÂ health, education AND GOVERNMENT
Assisted dying inquiry
A parliamentary debate on assisted dying was held yesterday in response to a petition fronted by campaign group Dignity in Dying. The result: calls for an inquiry on assisted dying assisted by government. Recent attempts to change the law have failed in the Commons but there are signs the tide is changing. YouGov found 74 per cent of the public were in favour of an inquiry and the MPs who stood up in support yesterday outnumbered those against by two to one. Supporters of an inquiry include Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, who called for a Commons vote and said the medical community as a whole was âchanging its viewâ. Jersey, Scotland and the Isle of Man are all set to vote on assisted dying in the next year. A special Oireachtas committee to examine the issue in Ireland has also been announced.Â
Our planetÂ CLIMATE AND geopolitics
Meat disease threat
A new food crisis involving meat could follow the existing global grain supply emergency. The Australian meat and livestock industry â a major global supplier â fears an Indonesian outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) could reach Australia via Bali. The virus has infected more than 20,000 animals in Indonesia over the past month, including 60 cows in Bali, which is the closest FMD has ever come to Australia. Indonesia has started vaccinating its cattle but that hasnât contained the outbreak, which sources tell the Sydney Morning Herald could cost Australia up to $54 billion if widespread culling were required.
CULTURE soCIETY, IDENTITY AND BELONGING
Highland Park shooting
Authorities arrested Robert âBobbyâ Crimo III in connection with the mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in Highland Park, Illinois, in which six people were killed and two dozen hospitalised. Crimo, a 22 year-old aspiring rapper whose family lives locally, had been identified as a person of interest yesterday evening. Officials said the shooting was random. They recovered a high-powered rifle at the scene. Hospitalised victims remain in serious and critical condition. There has been at least one mass shooting in the US every week this year.
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Paul Caruana Galizia
With additional reporting by Phoebe Davis, Nina Kuryata and Jessica Winch.
Photographs Getty Images
in the tortoise app today
Afghanistanâs slide to disaster
Afghanistan is reeling from its deadliest earthquake in two decades at a time when it is already facing a humanitarian crisis. The Taliban government has appealed for help from the international community. But will it ease the sanctions it imposed when the group swept to power last year?