Instant Opinion

‘France and UK must refrain from making mountains out of minnows’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

1

The Times editorial board

Anglo-French relations: rapprochement required

on foolhardy peril

Despite the colourful invective, the fishing row between France and the UK “could hardly be more anodyne”, says The Times. The disagreement over licences for fishing boats “should have been resolved by bureaucrats, behind the scenes”. Instead, it has been escalated into the sort of “intemperate exchanges” that “are becoming too common in Anglo-French relations”. The paper notes that “talking tough with the Brits may play well with electors in the run-up to the French presidential elections in April next year”, while Boris Johnson also benefits from the tension. However, it concludes, it would be “foolhardy” to “imperil such an important alliance for the sake of some short-term political advantage” and “both sides should refrain from making mountains out of minnows”.

2

Sunetra Gupta in The Telegraph

Waning immunity should not alarm us

on the end of restrictions

Although coronaviruses “do not induce lifelong immunity to further infection”, protection against severe disease and death “does not decay on the same timescale”, so repeat infections are rarely dangerous, explains Sunetra Gupta in The Telegraph. The professor of theoretical epidemiology at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, argues that waning immunity “should not alarm us” and that it does not warrant the imposition of restrictions, “which we now can be certain cause extreme harm to the economically vulnerable and to children and young adults throughout the world”. Signalling the end of any support for future lockdowns, she concludes that “once the vulnerable have been protected, there is no logic to putting any further resources towards preventing the spread of infection”.

3

Rachel Salvidge in The Guardian

Is this a watershed moment when it comes to sewage in England’s rivers and seas?

on a roiling tsunami

The “groundswell of disgust over water firms dumping raw human sewage into England’s rivers and seas” has grown into a “roiling tsunami threatening to overwhelm the government”, writes Rachel Salvidge. Water companies say they dumped untreated sewage into English water bodies more than 400,000 times last year, for a total of about 3.1 million hours. The environmental journalist regrets that “fish die, beaches are closed [and] rivers run rich with effluent” but adds that “things could be about to change because the water sector’s dirty little secret is now exposed” and “the furore of recent days has embarrassed the government”. Although ministers are planning to do “not much” initially, the difference is that “this time around... everyone is watching”, she concludes.

4

Victoria Richards in The Independent

Cancelled trains, huge queues – it couldn’t have been a more typically British start to Cop26

on a blinder from Mother Nature

“I almost smiled when I read about the hassle to passengers trying to reach Glasgow for the climate summit,” writes Victoria Richards, “not because I’m a sadist but because it’s just so… typical.” The Independent columnist describes yesterday’s transport disruption as “a Fawlty Towers-esque start” to Cop26 as “the eyes of the entire planet are watching”. She notes that it’s “the ultimate irony” that at “crisis talks to talk about the climate crisis, it was the climate that contributed to the delays”. Perhaps, she argues, “Mother Nature has played a blinder, here” because “yet another cancelled train – something we Brits are so, so good at complaining about – is exactly what is needed to keep the issues fresh in our minds”.

5

Damian Thompson for Unherd

The reason the Pope met Joe Biden

on Machiavellian antics

There were “just so many things that could go wrong” when Pope Francis met Joe Biden at the Vatican, writes Damian Thompson, and “most of them” did. “The only thing anyone wanted to know was what the Pope… would say to a supposedly devout Catholic president” with a “militantly pro-choice stance”. Bewilderingly, Biden said the pontiff did and did not raise the matter. Pope Francis is “happy to bend or blur principles in order to wrong-foot his opponents”, writes Thompson, “and there is no one he dislikes more than American Catholic conservatives”. He argues that “the unofficial motto of this pontificate is ‘My enemy’s enemy is my friend’, and it doesn’t take a conspiracy theorist to imagine the satisfaction the pope is feeling at the sight of his conservative critics roused to a new pitch of indignation”.

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