In Depth

Instant Opinion: ‘Who’ll want to do a deal with us after this?’

Your guide to the best columns and commentary on Tuesday 8 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. Rachel Sylvester in The Times

on an embarrassing saga

Who’ll want to do a deal with us after this?

“Instead of playing to Britain’s strengths - reliability, stability, respect for the rule of law - Mr Johnson has undermined the qualities that are most admired around the world. The prime minister threatened to break international law and tear up an agreement that he struck with the EU only a year ago, putting at risk the fragile peace in Northern Ireland. That will surely worry others who are considering entering into a free trade deal with Britain. British institutions that are respected across the globe, such as parliament and the judiciary, have been trashed by the revolutionaries in No 10. The government even appears prepared to sacrifice the Union in the pursuit of ideological purity. The Department for International Development has been scrapped, and the aid budget, which has done so much to boost Britain’s ‘soft power’ abroad, cut. To potential allies around the world, Britain under Mr Johnson seems untrustworthy, petty, confused and inward-looking.”

2. Philip Ball in the New Statesman

on pointless jingoism

The UK government’s vaccine nationalism is not only distasteful – it’s dangerous

“[Health Secretary Matt Hancock] and his colleagues have only soured what should have been a celebratory moment with more of the petty divisiveness that has curdled public discourse over the past few years. As with Dominic Cummings’s flouting of lockdown rules earlier this year, this might look superficially like a political spat – but it has serious implications for public health. For that reason, the government’s chief scientists must intervene. The deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam already did a sterling job, in the government press briefing on 2 December, of restoring the international perspective on vaccine development. But the scientists also have a duty to warn the government that its cheap and deceitful nationalism could do real harm to the already challenging vaccination programme. It has to stop.”

3. Paul Krugman in The New York Times

on denial in Congress

Republicans can’t handle the truth

“There’s obviously a big difference in immediate impact between refusing to accept evidence that contradicts your policy preconceptions and refusing to accept the results of an election. But the mind-set is the same. The point is that once a party gets into the habit of rejecting facts it doesn’t want to hear, one fact it’s bound to reject sooner or later is the fact that it lost an election. In that sense there’s a straight line from, say, the Republican embrace of climate denial to the party’s willingness to go along with Trump’s attempts to retain power. And the G.O.P.’s previous history of dealing with inconvenient reality gives us a pretty good idea about when the party will accept Joe Biden as the legitimate winner of the 2020 election — namely, never.”

4. Marwan Bishara in Al Jazeera

on an ugly alliance

Saudi Arabia: Time to face the music

“[Israeli PM Benjamin] Netanyahu’s smug phoniness must have been especially irritating and embarrassing to the monarchy, which reportedly moved to cancel an upcoming secret visit by the Israeli intelligence chief. Make no mistake, Saudi Arabia remains keen on improving security ties with Israel to contain Iran, but without openly normalising relations, as such a move could cause a backlash within the kingdom and part of the Islamic world. Unlike its smaller neighbours, the kingdom has much to lose from openly betraying the Palestinian cause. With President Donald Trump’s defeat in the US elections, Riyadh lost its staunchest ally at the White House. The monarchy is now obliged to tread carefully, walk back some of its mistakes and avoid any new risky moves before a less friendly administration takes over next month.”

5. Tian Shichen and Bao Huaying in the South China Morning Post

on diplomatic hypocrisy

In Australia’s Twitter row with China, no surprise who the West sides with

“In the past, Australia had been the one to stand on the moral high ground to criticise China on alleged human rights violations. Now, however, it is Australian soldiers who stand accused of gross violations of humanitarian laws. Given the facts of the war crimes committed by Australian soldiers, it is strange to see the rest of the Western world teaming up and siding with Canberra by accusing China of being biased and unprofessional in targeting Australia. Countries including the US, France and Britain, to name just a few, have showed their support for Australia in one way or another. Such teaming up cannot be fully explained by the fact that condemnation of Australia’s behaviour during the Afghan war is to some extent equivalent to condemnation of those other countries, since many were also involved in the Afghan operation as Nato allies.”

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