In Depth

Instant Opinion: coronavirus could ‘delay Brexit’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Friday 13 March

The Week’s daily round-up highlights the five best opinion pieces from across the British and international media, with excerpts from each.

1. Jeremy Warner in The Daily Telegraph

on getting Brexit undone

Don't be surprised if this virus delays Brexit

“... if the virus causes the European economy to collapse into recession, sparking renewed crisis in the single currency, Brussels won’t want to pile on the agony by risking an acrimonious trade rupture with the UK. Brexit will become seen as a comparatively trivial matter to be settled in a needs-must, least-damage manner. They’ll cut a deal to avoid further nuisance. Yet the other way of looking at the choice is that there would be no face to lose in agreeing an extension if the world is by then still gripped by the natural disaster of a killer disease. In the scale of things, a minor delay to Brexit would be of no significance.”

2. Ian Johnson in The New York Times

on an unfairly maligned victim

China bought the West time. The West squandered it.

“Until recently, one dominant story line was that the epidemic in China spiraled out of control because the authorities cracked down on early whistle-blowers in late December, allowing the virus to spread. When China put in place a draconian lockdown and quarantine measures in January, some mainstream foreign reports didn’t just criticize the program as excessive; they described the entire exercise as flat-out backward or essentially pointless. China did get props for building two hospitals in just over a week, but even the awe over that feat was tinged with a sense that something nefarious was at work — in a Hitler-built-the-autobahn kind of way. And when quarantine shelters were set up to host infected people so that they wouldn’t spread the disease to family members at home, the effort was portrayed as dystopian or, at best, chaotic.”

3. Simon Jenkins in The Guardian

on questionable spending

Johnson’s egocentric budget gives him everything and local councils nothing

“Central government can borrow and spend at will. Local government is allowed no such liberality for its services. There was no whisper from Sunak of a let-up in rate capping, no new sources of local revenue, no hope of council tax revaluation. If cuts continue, they are not central government’s responsibility. Blame your hapless, wasteful local council. In contrast, Downing Street is splurge central. Anything the NHS asks for, says [Rishi] Sunak, be it ‘millions or billions’, it can have. He pledges to pay for 50m more surgery appointments. What other government on Earth would boast such implausible specificity? No such offer is made for local care visits, on which the NHS relies for backup. This is built-in unfairness and inefficiency.”

4. Nikolay Kozhanov in Al Jazeera

on Russia’s backfiring gamble

The fall of OPEC+ and the age of oil price wars

“Moscow made the move to allow Opec+ to collapse because it believed it could keep a balanced budget amid a drop in oil prices, at least for a while. It also probably expected other participants to get scared and succumb to its demand to not deepen production cuts without taking any major retaliatory action. It never expected Opec+ countries to start preparations for a fully-fledged trade war. The unexpectedly harsh response it received scared Moscow.”

5. Richard Gadd in The i

on the complicated world of stalkers

I wrote about my complicated relationship with my stalker to hold myself to account

“The story is far from straightforward. A woman came into the bar I used to work in in London. Her infatuation with me was apparent from the start. I indulged that fascination – let her compliment me and complimented her back – even flirted with her at times to satisfy whatever part of my confidence was lacking at that period in my life. The story darkens. Her fascination with me grows. Following me home, bus stops, comedy gigs, letters, tweets, messages – and six years later my life is in tatters and my mental health bordering on ruin. I hated her. She hated me.”

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