In Depth

Instant Opinion: Boris Johnson ‘should drop his Brexiteer mentality’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 17 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. Rachel Sylvester in The Times

on coronavirus and Brexit

Johnson should drop his Brexiteer mentality

“The pandemic is a wake-up call. It is never entirely possible to take back control. Britain cannot isolate itself from the world and co-operation is crucial. Trust matters and transparency can help build it. The country can be brought together in a common cause by a leader acting in the national interest. The political divisions over Europe that tore the country apart last year seem so petty in comparison with this life and death emergency. Remainers should accept that Brexit has happened and cannot now be reversed. The prime minister must apply the evidence-based approach he is taking with Covid-19 to his talks with the EU. It is time to put aside ideology.”

2. Frances Ryan in The Guardian

on trusting the prime minister

Boris Johnson is struggling to inspire trust on coronavirus

“This pandemic is showing why trust between governments and citizens is important, and it is an irony of fate that the very man who did so much to challenge faith in the UK establishment in recent years now requires it. Time may prove that Johnson’s team’s plan is superior to his European counterparts; there are no easy answers here and few certainties. But one thing is clear: in the coming months, trust in what’s coming out of Downing Street is going to be increasingly vital. The government’s task is not only to keep the public safe but to convince them that it can. One of those tasks may prove as tricky as the other.”

3. Stephen Bush in the New Statesman

on the inequality revealed by the coronavirus

Why the government must announce a far larger economic stimulus to fight coronavirus

“The most alarming bit of British economic data to come out about this crisis so far is from Transport for London: while passenger numbers have fallen on both the bus and the Tube, they have fallen close to half as much on the bus as the Tube. That isn’t because people who take the bus to work are more likely to be healthy than those who use the Tube - it’s that you are more likely to be well-off if you use the Tube than the bus, and you are more likely to have the economic security to take time off or work from home.”

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4. Edna Bonhomme in Al Jazeera

on the lessons we can learn from past pandemics

What coronavirus has taught us about inequality

“Pandemics do not materialise in isolation. They are part and parcel of capitalism and colonisation. The countries that struggled to contain and control major epidemics in the recent past, from Haiti to Sierra Leone, had deficient public health systems prior to these crises, partially as a result of their colonial histories. Moreover, products of capitalism - from war to migration to mass production and increased travel - contribute massively to the proliferation of diseases. In the world that we live in, where capitalism and the remnants of colonialism fuel wars, unprecedented migration waves, public health crises and an increasing dependency on international and intercontinental travel, epidemics are inevitable. And, as the COVID-19 outbreak makes crystal clear, no countries, including the members of the Global North, are immune to these outbreaks. The global community, however, can successfully counter these epidemics if it employs a holistic health policy. To defeat COVID-19, and other pandemics to come, the world powers need to learn to act as one.”

5. William Hague in the Daily Telegraph

on internationalism in the face of coronavirus

Solutions to this virus can only work with global cooperation

“The accelerating global crisis will tell us a great deal about the 21st century world – how strong our health services are, how much we support elderly people under threat, which companies made plans to survive a downturn, which governments are competent, which societies are resilient and how rapidly modern science can respond to a new danger. But one depressing feature has already been revealed for all to see: the habits of consultation and collaboration between world leaders that we considered normal even five years ago have been seriously undermined. That didn’t matter when all ran smoothly, but now it makes a serious and perhaps fatal difference to the course of events.”

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