In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘Brexit’s snake-oil salesmen rediscover expertise’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 1 December

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

1. Marina Hyde in The Guardian

on new rules

Who cares about jobs and experts? Suddenly, Brexit's snake-oil salesmen do

“Oh dear. I see Michael Gove now gives a toss about experts. And I see Steve Baker now gives a toss about economic impact statements. The Cabinet Office minister spent Tuesday blitzing the airwaves to explain why the government’s imminent tier system is done for your own good, for reasons you’re too dim to be given the data to understand. Meanwhile, Baker, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s former robot sidekick, is leading the rebellion against the tier system, on the basis that it will cause huge economic damage. Presumably Brexit ironies are cheaper by the dozen. For the past four years, political analysis has been honed, refined and reduced to a single immutable truth. And that is that all these guys should be made to fight each other in a Wetherspoon’s car park.”

2. Christine Stegling in The Independent

on the other pandemic

We must not allow coronavirus to undo a decade of progress in HIV prevention

“HIV prevention is in crisis too, and governments need to be brave on this issue as well, and to face up to the things which need changing – criminalisation of LGBT people, drug use and sex work for example, stigma and discrimination in healthcare settings, harmful gender norms and comprehensive sexuality education. Without addressing these difficult subjects, and without renewed commitment to the Aids response in the face of Covid-19, the next set of targets are likely to fail too. This World Aids Day more than ever, we need governments to remember the HIV challenge and to commit to a future which is free from Aids for everyone, everywhere.”

3. Various writers in Politico

on room for improvement

The von der Leyen Commission end-of-year report card

“Von der Leyen has struggled most in moments when she couldn’t be found. At the start of the year, the president was silent for days as crisis engulfed the Middle East. And her team stirred unnecessary controversy by not being forthright when von der Leyen left Brussels to self-isolate because of a coronavirus risk. At the start of the pandemic, she was slow to pivot from a crisis on the Greek-Turkish border. And last spring, a dismissive reference to so-called “coronabonds” in an interview with German news agency DPA caused a furor in Italy with even European Parliament President David Sassoli demanding a clarification. Current and former EU officials have accused von der Leyen and her cabinet chief, Björn Seibert, of creating a huge backlog of senior job vacancies by insisting on personal control over appointments — an allegation the Commission denied.”

4. Izabella Koziell in Al Jazeera

on dirty business

How to defuse the human waste time bomb in low-income countries

“In addition to market opportunities, the sanitation service chain also offers environmental benefits. For example, Sulabh International has pioneered public toilets connected to bio-digesters in India. This has created a simple, affordable technology to treat faecal matter in the absence of a sewerage network, or to reduce the load on the existing sewerage, while also contributing to the circular economy. Dignified sanitation is a basic human need that does not end with a toilet, and in fact, delivered in full, can offer opportunities for sustainability through nutrient and energy recovery. But this can only be delivered if sanitation is treated as an entire chain, with its own market opportunities, regulatory needs and an infrastructure that supports sustainable services to grow, whether sewered or non-sewered.”

5. Nick Timothy in The Telegraph

on walking a fine line

The ethics and politics of the vaccine are still perilous for the Government

“One of the biggest issues is that without any net zero roadmap or guidance from the government, businesses have been left to interpret it for themselves. Businesses told us net zero involved carbon offsetting, carbon reduction or carbon elimination – similar-sounding phrases that vary wildly in their impact on an organisation’s footprint. (Carbon offsetting involves taking action to compensate for emissions in other areas, compared to bringing emissions down or getting rid of them entirely). None of the definitions are ‘wrong’ – put simply, net zero means achieving an overall balance between emissions produced and taken out of the atmosphere – but without an overarching framework to follow, businesses are left with room to interpret it as they choose. In fact, almost two thirds of businesses feared their own targets could be seen as greenwashing and 86 per cent believe net zero is in danger of becoming a meaningless statement without consistency in approach and measurement amongst businesses.”

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