Calais: understanding the ‘post-Jungle’ era

In October 2016, the refugee and migrant camp in Calais previously known as ‘the Jungle’ was destroyed and evacuated by French authorities. Despite being buried under layers of rubble, the Jungle has once again become a hotspot for people wanting to cross to the UK.

French riot police (CRS) look on as a tent burns in Calais, France.

Over the past year, trickles of refugees and migrants – primarily from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea – have temporarily settled in and around Calais. As of today, there are roughly close to a thousand people in the area, and their situation has significantly worsened since the destruction of the camp.

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s changed?

  1. There are now 5 different distribution points for refugees.

Five relatively small clusters of refugee and migrant populations have emerged around Calais, loosely divided by ethnicity. Volunteers have called these sites ‘Old Lidl’, ‘Covoit’, ‘Jungle’, ‘L’hôpital’, ‘Norveige’.  After the demolition of the Jungle, it was easier for migrants to scatter given the constant police evictions breaking them up.

  1. Volunteers now have to provide drinking water.

There used to be several water points for the Jungle’s population of 12,000. These also doubled up as a place to wash. These no longer exist. Volunteers drive around with a water truck, providing water for everyone at the five distribution points.

  1. CRS burn and slash tents on a regular basis.

Officially, no structures of any form are permitted in Calais anymore. This includes tents. The CRS (French riot police) often forcefully evict people if they see any tents pitched. According to Human Rights Watch, police slash and burn tents, rendering them unusable .

A former Calais CRS officer of fifteen years openly discussed the allegations with Help Refugees, stating “I have destroyed many encampments, I have emptied canisters of tear gas to contaminate people’s sleeping bags…I [have] colleagues who set tents on fire so badly that the fire brigade had to be called.”

However, according to Help Refugees, French President Emmanuel Macron is threatening to take charities to court for “defamation” of the police force. Macron attributed the claims of police brutality to the “lies and manipulations” of these charities, according to The Guardian.

  1. Pepper spray, tear gas and excessive violence often interrupt migrants sleeping rough.

This includes children. The idea is to ‘evict’ people by any means and drive them away from Calais. There are countless reports of physical abuse every single day. Talking to the New York Times Michael Bochenek of Human RIghts Watch reported that CRS routinely confiscate and pepper spray donations so they are unusable, as well as disrupting food distributions.

  1. Women are so scared of sexual assault that they no longer sleep in tents.

For many women in the makeshift encampments, going to the toilet at night is too frightening. This is why in Dunkirk – where one of the camps has formed to the east of Calais – volunteers hand out nappies so women  don’t have to leave their beds.

In Calais, there is no such provision. It is actually safer to sleep rough, as very few people have the luxury of sleeping in a tent. According to long-term volunteer Sarah, tents are obvious targets for abuse, and women feel even more vulnerable in them for fear of attracting other migrant men or CRS officers. Sarah estimated that there are only between 5-10 women in Calais. Unlike in Dunkirk – where there is a large Kurdish population of women who have travelled with their families – the women of Calais are alone. They are primarily from Eritrea and Ethiopia – none are from Afghanistan – and usually have male friends from home who will ‘protect’ them, often pretending to be their husbands.

  1. Volunteers can’t distribute tents unless there’s enough for everyone.

Due to constant shortages, there are two effective distribution methods which are used to fairly determine who receives a tent:

1.) Individually according to vulnerability: This involves going to each community asking if people need a tent. This method is difficult to get right, though, according to long-term volunteer Beth*, as “you never really know if someone truly needs one”. For a migrant, a spare tent could be sold for money, or swapped for other valuable provisions.

2.) En masse: This involves a large distribution from a set point at a set time with a van full of tents. But there is never enough for everybody, which causes problems between and within communities that are exacerbated by criminal gangs and smugglers. Recent clashes in Calais leaving 22 in hospital and 2 fighting for their lives is a prime example of this, supposedly instigated by smuggler gangs as suggested by the French Interior Minister. People queue for hours and walk away empty-handed. When this inevitably happens, they are reduced to stealing from other communities, causing violence and an ‘alpha-male’ hierarchy. Volunteers are blamed for withholding tents.

Unpredictable police evictions makes this harder. Tents are sometimes distributed only to be destroyed the next day. Volunteers speak to communities every day, who alert them if there has been an eviction. Stock of tents and sleeping bags are counted for each of the five communities. The Help Refugees/L’Auberge des Migrants warehouse has emergency tents packed in case of an eviction.

…and what hasn’t changed

  1. There is still no government aid.

Not one of the numerous organisations based in Calais during the Jungle period was government funded. Today, most NGOs are gone, leaving few charities such as Help Refugees, Utopia 56, Refugee Community Kitchen and L’Auberge des Migrants as the only aid in Calais. Britain has put £100 million into Channel border security; funding CRS, building a 1km wall to prevent migrants getting close to the motorways and extensive barbed wire and CCTV around the port.

The Jungle Books building functioned as a classroom and library during the Jungle.
  1. Charities are still arguing over the best distribution methods.

As ever, there are ongoing tensions between charities. A number of volunteers from Help Refugees consider Care4Calais’ distribution methods “undignified”; blowing a whistle and handing out donations from the back of a van on a first come first serve basis. Meetings to re-evaluate the effectiveness of these methods and how to adapt to volatile situations are ongoing, new rules and regulations are introduced every day. Volunteers, on call around the clock, are still burnt out.

  1. Donations still aren’t enough

The lack of stock has forced charities to come up with distribution methods aimed at not making people feel undignified. There are ticketing systems, which seems like the fairest option; people don’t have to queue for hours only to be disappointed due to the inevitable lack of stock, instead their name is called and they come up and collect their item. But still, because there isn’t enough, it promotes a hierarchy where the youngest and weakest often end up with nothing unless they have a deal with someone to ‘protect’ them.

      4. There is still no guarantee that vulnerable children will be safe at night.

In the Jungle, ‘Salaam’ was a (relatively) safe place where unaccompanied children could go to sleep at night. It was built to keep vulnerable migrants – primarily women and children – safe at night, doubling up as a place for migrants to shower and receive legal information. However, space was limited, so Salaam tended to prioritise younger, more vulnerable children aged 14 and under.

‘There is temporary accommodation which opens subject to weather conditions, where there is space for 60 kids. There are well over 100 in Calais.’

This meant that unaccompanied minors between the ages of 15 and 18 were sleeping alone. Not only is this still the case, but children even younger are being forced to sleep rough. There is temporary accommodation which opens subject to weather conditions, where there is space for 60 kids. There are well over 100 in Calais.

  1. People are still risking their lives to get across the border.

Five children with a legal right to be in the UK have died attempting to cross the border over the past two years. Since December 2017, two people have been put in intensive care after accidents trying to get to the UK. One, hit by a train, has lost his legs. Three more people have died, including a 15-year-old boy trying to reach his sister in the UK. His 13-year-old friend had to call for an ambulance.

~

By Molly Whitmey

A new arrival on the podcast scene: The Europeans

The Europeans is a new arrival on the podcast scene, discussing politics, culture and any given topic in a both entertaining and well-informed manner. The weekly show is hosted by two friends: Katy Lee, a reporter in Paris, and Dominic Kraemer, an opera singer in Amsterdam. After the listener is greeted by catchy remix of the Anthem of Europe, Katy and Dominic take us on a tour of the recent events beyond breaking news and Brexit.

What makes their podcast special is that each feature includes an interview with someone on site: we listen to them converse with a Polish-Canadian journalist on Poland’s new Holocaust law, speak to an in-house IKEA designer on the legacy of the late IKEA founder Kamprad, or ask an Austrian dancing teacher about the Viennese ball season.

Those longing to hear some new voices should be excited for Tuesday, when their next episode will be released!

 

More information about Katy, Dominic and their podcast is available on their website.

 

 

Guy Verhofstadt Exclusive Interview: ‘The European Union is not responsible for Brexit’

We spoke to Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit representative, to discuss Brexit, citizens’ rights and Phase Two of negotiations.

What’s the EP’s agenda regarding citizens’ rights in the second phase of the negotiations?

‘There are many outstanding issues that the European Parliament will continue to clarify, from the administrative procedures that will apply for EU citizens in the UK, to the free movement rights of UK citizens in the EU. We need the initial agreement on citizens’ rights to now be put into a legally cast iron treaty and presented for review by MEPs. We will insist that the implementation date of the withdrawal treaty starts at the end of any transition period requested by the British Government. Both EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU need clarity as soon as possible and we are committed to ensuring the minimum disruption to people’s lives.

Is the coming negotiation on citizens’ rights going to be limited to the EU residents in the UK settled before Brexit or will it be extended to those applying for residency after Brexit? Same question about the British residents in the EU.

‘A number of outstanding issues remain for both groups of citizens, from free movement for UK citizens in the EU, to the governance of the rights of EU nationals in the UK.

Do you still support a version of the proposal for Associate Citizenship for UK citizens? What would this entail?

‘I will continue to push for recognition that millions of UK citizens are having their European rights taken away from them against their will. Europe should recognise this, in my opinion.’

Recent YouGov polls suggest a growing number of Brits have ‘buyers remorse’ about Brexit. What do you make of this? Do you think Brexit will actually happen?

‘The British Government, on behalf of the British people, has submitted its intentions to leave the European Union and of course we have to implement this, but we do not do so with glee. The British people must take responsibility for their own destiny.’

If Britain changed its mind, how likely would it be that the EU27 would rescind article 50 and welcome them back?     

‘President Juncker, Tusk and Macron have all said the door remains open, but this would require the agreement of all EU member states and the European Parliament.’

Some say the EU cannot officially negotiate with the UK on a trade deal as long as they are a member state. Britain would need to first revert to third country status under Article 218. Do you foresee any problems there?

‘The ongoing Brexit talks will aim to secure a political declaration outlining a possible future framework for trade negotiations, once Britain becomes a third country after “Brexit day”.’

Does anyone in Brussels regret Jean-Claude Juncker not giving concessions to David Cameron before he called the referendum?

‘The European Union offered David Cameron unprecedented concessions, including an opt-out of “ever closer union”. In the end, the renegotiation hardly featured in the referendum debate.’

What has the EU done to remedy the underlying issues that partly led to Brexit?

‘The European Union is not responsible for Brexit. Support for the European project has increased profoundly since the referendum. However, I agree the European Union needs to reform if it is to survive; fixing the eurozone, doing less but better, building a real defence union so people feel safe, securing Europe’s external borders and delivering fairer globalisation are our priorities. Too many communities have been “left behind”, but the reasons for this are complex, multi-faceted and in most cases the result of a lack of investment by national governments.’

Beyond the gates of Rome: why you should care about the Italian election

March 4th is coming. If this otherwise innocuous date doesn’t sound troubling to you, think again.


On that bright day of early spring, more than 51.000.000 Italians will be called to the urns to cast a vote that will determine the country’s political equilibrium for the next five years. And the consequence of their choice will certainly not stop at the Alps.

The election at a glance

The latest polls have seen the centre-right coalition leading with 36% of the vote. This numerous group is a melting pot of various parties, which includes Berlusconi’s apparently immortal Forza Italia (FI), Matteo Salvini’s freshly-repackaged Lega Nord (LN), the conservatives of Fratelli d’Italia (FdI) and Christian-democratic Noi con l’Italia (NCL).

In second place with 28% of the projected vote is the centre-left governing party, Matteo Renzi’s Partito Democratico (PD), which features a number of smaller parties, ranging from greens to socialists and Emma Bonino’s brand new, pro-EU “+ Europa”.

In third place is the anti-establishment Movimento Cinque Stelle (M5S), which now counts 88 MPs in the Italian lower chamber and 35 representatives in the Senate, and is currently projected to gain 27% of the vote.

Liberi e Uguali, freshly created by two prominent ex-members of the Democratic Party, currently stands at 6%.

The remaining 9% is contended by a number of predominantly extremist parties – including the growing neo-fascist movement Casa Pound, which derives its name from the poet Ezra Pound, paying tribute to his Cantons, in which the American poet harshly criticises both capitalism and Marxism.

So what does this all mean for the European Union?

While just 34% of Italians believe their country should leave the European union, up to 57% would support holding a national referendum on Italy’s membership.

Italy has been strongly tied to the EU since its foundation, and remains the third biggest economy of the eurozone, despite ongoing economic difficulties and slow growth.

On the other hand, discontent around the EU’s insufficient help with an unprecedented migration wave, coupled with ceaseless economic insecurity have taken a toll on Italian’s positions towards the Union.

In its post-Brexit report on member countries’ disposition towards the EU, Pew Research Center showed that, while just 34% of Italians believe their country should leave the European union, up to 57% would support holding a national referendum on Italy’s membership.

The prospect of an “Italeave” is unlikely, but where do the main parties that are fighting for a slice of sweet Parliamentary cake stand on Europe?  

A confused right-wing bloc

If the big FI-LN-FdI-NCL team might make sense on paper, it would be an understatement to say that the parties’ programs tend to clash in practise. And they definitely need to come up with a catchier name.

It’s no secret that the new Italian President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani – who has held increasingly prestigious positions in Brussels and Strasbourg in the past 10 years– has been a prominent member of Berlusconi’s party since its early years. But even though Berlusconi once threatened to exit the Eurozone, he never actually considered a divorce between Rome and Brussels, instead pointing out that diplomacy and moderation is the only way to have your voice heard within the rooms of the European institutions.

That’s more the case now than ever. Berlusconi, who ruled Italy for 20 years and actually served as European MP between 1999 and 2001, is working hard to rebrand himself as a moderate, centrist alternative to the populist M5S.

For Forza Italia, therefore, leaving the EU – or even the Eurozone – is out of the question. At most, an FI-lead government would work to safeguard Italian interests on a European level, fighting for less constraints on Italian businesses and “passing from the Europe of bureaucrats to the Europe of the peoples.

Matteo Salvini’s Lega Nord (LN), on the other hand, is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Salvini has attempted to broaden his appeal by toning down his anti-European rhetoric.

Since becoming party leader in 2013, Salvini has worked hard to align himself to other right-wing European parties in harshly critiquing the European Union’s every step, in any possible field, and promising multiple times to do the best he could to get the country out of the Eurozone, if not of the Union entirely.

However, since allying with Berlusconi, LN has toned down its more Eurosceptic edges. That the majority of Salvini’s support base remains anti-European is not lost on him, but with the elections looming he has attempted to broaden his appeal by toning down his anti-European rhetoric, even publicly stating that returning to the previous currency is not a viable option.

A recent article published about Berlusconi’s recent visit to Brussels on Italian national newspaper Repubblica casts a dark shadow on the agreement. While LN explicitly aims to renegotiate the infamous deficit-to-GDP ratio of 3% (which hinders public investment), Repubblica stated that Berlusconi, visiting several European institutions,  assured that his government would respect the 3% limit.

The article also implies that Berlusconi might have struck a deal with the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, promising that – were his coalition to win – both Lega Nord and Movimento Cinque Stelle would not be awarded any relevant position in the future government. Salvini immediately called it fake news.

Fratelli d’Italia, led by self-proclaimed patriot Giorgia Meloni, is less extreme but still highly critical of the European project. “We believe in a Europe that works for its people, not for oligarchies and finance,” reads their program, which alludes to the scarce democracy behind European law and excessive German influence. Noi con l’Italia programme regarding the future of Italy’s role in the EU mostly mirrors that of Forza Italia.

The left asks for more Europe

Five gruelling years in power and three different prime ministers later, the Italian Democratic Party (PD) is probably going to be punished at the polls for its unbroken Europeism and for its consistent trust in the European system. Although the past 5 years have seen an improvement in the country’s economy and employment, many feel they have not benefited from such betterment and the refugee issue has slowly polarized the country’s public opinion.

PD knows this, and its answer is…more Europe. More Europe when it comes to the issue of immigration, as Italy is incapable of controlling its southern sea, fighting human trafficking and improving the reception and welcome system on its own. More Europe and more involvement in Africa as a strategic and long-term foreign policy focus. More Europe for a greater dialogue between institutions to develop a political project that sometimes seems to have been forgotten in favour of a merely financial one.

“More Europe” is actually the name of one of the parties in Renzi’s bloc. Both economically and socially liberal, it was created by Emma Bonino – best known as the leader of the Italian Radicals and former Minister of Foreign Affairs – to channel the voices of those who believe it’s time for the United States of Europe.

Its programme includes the creation of a European border police and a European army, as well as the direct election of the president of the European Commission. Some accuse Bonino’s party of bending too much to the EU, particularly because of its promises to continue austerity measures. Although an official government pact with the Democratic Party hasn’t been announced yet, Bonino herself called it “a civic duty” to fight together against the populist and racist front.

Movimento Cinque Stelle feeds on chaos

Debuting on the political scene in 2009, the self-proclaimed “rabid populist” Movimento Cinque Stelle – the lovechild of comedian Beppe Grillo and web businessman Gianroberto Casaleggio’s – has never been able, or willing, to formulate a coherent stance on foreign policy issues.

Between confusing appeals to an Italian referendum on EU membership to embarrassing videos on the necessity of leaving the Eurozone and last-minute denials, the movement just can’t keep a clear head on the matter.

Comedian turned politician Beppe Grillo

The fact that in 2014 M5S formed a parliamentary group alongside Ukip – the two parties share 27.1% of their political ideas, according to VoteWatch Europe – points to the fact that Grillo’s movement, that has now been handed down to young leader Luigi di Maio, is far from being pro-European.

Instead, its program calls for a retreat from the 2012 Fiscal Compact pact (and the aforementioned 3% rule), a referendum on the euro, and a warmer approach to Vladimir Putin – with the stated aim of lifting the sanctions on Russia.

Second in the polls even if running alone, Movimento 5 Stelle is beloved by its supporters for its strong and often controversial opinions. In the run-up to March 4th, its candidates have voiced several critical views of the EU, especially on the dangers of “EU anti-Russian propaganda” and the possibility of Italy soon becoming “Europe’s refugee camp”. On the possibility of a common defence policy, they warned against  such a project becoming “an instrument for military operations that only pursue the interests of some member states”.

The Italian menace

Since the Brexit referendum, national elections in major EU states have felt like a game of Russian roulette with the future of the Union. This time in Italy, it feels like the stakes are higher than ever. With a minority government in Spain struggling with the Catalan crisis, a fractious and uncertain coalition in Germany, and a new Austrian chancellor tempting the German minority in the Italian Sudtirol, it’s easy to see how different parliamentary majorities would transform the way in which the Italian government collaborates and communicates with the EU – and vice-versa.

Whatever the outcome of this election, growing Eurosceptic parties like Lega Nord and Movimento 5 Stelle are highly likely to play a more prominent role in the Italian parliament.

As is always the case with Italian elections, it feels like the right moment to dig out Dante’s good old VI canto, from the Purgatorio:

Ah, abject Italy, you inn of sorrows,

you ship without a helmsman in harsh seas,

no queen of provinces but of brothels!

~

By Viola Serena Stefanello

Podcast of the week: Our post-work future

Work as we know it won’t persist. The system is imploding: people are short of income, time, and satisfaction, productivity is stagnating, and automatization will make much of human work redundant anyway.

Such statements are often followed by nods of approval, a short silence, and a subsequent switch of topic. Work is for most an essential part of life, giving structure and purpose, making it hard to imagine how it could ever change.

In this week’s episode of ‘The Guardian’s Audio Long Read’ – spoken versions of in-depth essays – journalist Andy Beckett explores the possibilities of the post-work future. This podcast asks to be listened to attentively: in little more than half an hour, Beckett tours past the main questions, visions and controversies. From here the conversation can begin.

 

By Isabel Seeger

 

 

The case for ‘Lexit’

It is not just the populist right who clash ideologically with the European Union.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

In 2013, a senior Conservative politician was overheard referring to Eurosceptic activists as “swivel-eyed loons.” Intended as a disparaging remark, some traditionalists wore the label proudly. Michael Fabricant, the party’s former vice-chairman, uploaded a picture of the late bulbous-eyed comedian, Marty Feldman, as his Twitter avatar.

The comments came after 116 Tory MPs defied the ex-Prime Minister, David Cameron, by voting for an amendment to protest his lack commitment to a referendum on EU membership before 2015. Those on the right of the Conservative party were appalled by the delay.

Hard Brexiteers continue to be stereotyped as demented, frothy-mouthed, “swivel-eyed” monsters. Earlier this month, the Telegraph reported that climate change minister, Claire Perry, had used the term in a group WhatsApp conversation with other Tory MPs.

But often overlooked is euroscepticism on the left – with Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn providing an obvious starting point.

Corbyn voted to leave the EEC in the 1975 referendum and has railed against European institutions consistently since becoming an MP in 1983. In parliament, he voted against the 1993 Maastricht Treaty and the 2008 Lisbon Treaty.

During the run-up to the 2016 referendum, the Labour leader was lukewarm in his support of remain. In one chat-show appearance, Corbyn claimed to be “seven out of ten” on the EU, and was conspicuously absent throughout the Brexit campaigning period.

Corbyn is not isolated amongst left-wing intellectuals over the question of the Europe. The New Left Review, one of the most influential political science journals in the world, had been hankering for ‘Lexit’, a handy – if a little ungainly – neologism of ‘left wing’ and ‘Brexit’, for some time.

The journal’s former editor, Perry Anderson, argued that the EU was an authoritarian and neoliberal project, bent on “enforcing a bitter economic regime of privilege for the few and duress for the many.”

A right wing institution?

At the core of the European project is dogmatic commitment to the free-market. Since the 1970s, European markets have becoming increasingly integrated. The creation of a single currency, Masastricht and Lisbon Treaties, the Stability and Growth pact have driven this trend. Directives at the European Central Bank and the European Commission have now all but banned the Keynesian economic model – the very bedrock of social democracy.

With increased integration comes increased competition. EU states are now forced to compete for investment from multinationals more than ever before. In order to gain a competitive edge, states are forced to lower corporation tax, cut labour costs, weaken unions and compromise on environmental and social regulations. The result is spiralling inequality.

Some intellectual voices on the left, including Alan Johnson, have also argued that the failure of the EU to work democratically, in the interests of the majority, has created a “breeding ground for the far right.” In the US, many analysts have attributed the election of Donald Trump to anger at the unequal impact of globalization in some disaffected caucuses. The unequal spread of Economic integration benefits is perhaps a source of discontent here too.

Despite his long held opposition to the EU, Jeremy Corbyn is expected to announce a major policy shift next month. He is reported to be holding a meeting in early February with Labour bigwigs, in which he will discuss the prospect of remaining part of some sort of customs union.

For Corbyn this would draw clear battle lines to fight a Conservative party, currently floundering in chaos. It would appease pro-Europe sections of the Labour party. But such a policy shift would also represent a sacrifice of values for the Labour leader and some of his comrades.

~

By Sam Bradpiece

Brexit: the game is up on this outdated idea

One view of our divided country is that it was always a land of potential Leavers and Remainers, the rift being merely exposed by the referendum. On this theory, Remainers were born rather than made and Leavers, like leopards, will never change their spots.

Getty Images

Yet the truth is that Leavers comprise all sorts of people, as do Remainers. They are not a different species.

I am coming round to the view that our current turmoil is not the fault of the people themselves, so much as the power of a virulent ideology that has flooded the country like a tsunami, sweeping away common sense, but which is now slowly evaporating.

It has happened before: ideas have taken hold with a force disproportionate to their merit, and caused mayhem.

Brexit and other cults

Remember the Moonies? If you were around in the 1960’s like me, you probably will. So called after the founder, the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, the Moonies, or the Unification Church to give it its official title, were said to be a sinister cult who seduced people away from their families, promising salvation through sex and free love.

The nearest I got to that was driving around in a flower power van, but more impressionable youngsters were turned against their families and brainwashed by the cult’s teachings, whilst being fleeced of any money and possessions. Desperate parents, grieving for the loss of their loved ones, attempted to locate and “deprogram” their sons and daughters, often with limited success.

What the cult of the Moonies had in common with Brexit Britain was the isolation and impoverishment of its victims. It was dressed up as a spiritual movement, but its ulterior purpose was the amassment of huge wealth by its founder. In the same way, Brexit has been dressed up as a patriotic protest, but its true purpose, as Nick Clegg made clear, is to make the very rich very much richer, by removing the protections and regulations of the EU.

Today, our continental neighbours are doubtful whether they can persuade us to remain within our European family. And with some justification, for to deprogram people like Jeremy Corbyn, Theresa May or Jacob Rees-Mogg would be a challenge indeed. Nevertheless, they would welcome us back with open arms if we turned up on their doorstep.

So what happened to the Moonies? They faded from the limelight amid scandal and disillusion, though the Reverend Moon retained considerable political power and influence until he died in 2012.  These cults are no fleeting fads or fashions, they can last quite a long time.

How long will the Brexit fad last?

Brexit is an edifice of fantasy resting on no solid foundation, which is already crumbling at the approach of reality.  The game is up on this expired idea, which is just waiting to buried. The earliest time for another vote will be December 2018 – not too long to wait.

Some fear that even if we win, a second referendum will inflame the divisions further, leading to a civil war between Brexiters and Remainers. However, it is more likely in my view that the situation will stabilise, and instead of the armies of Brexiters, there will be just normal people again, like before David Cameron’s ill-advised referendum.

When the Second World War put the final nail in fascism, an improbable number of French people claimed they had been fighters in the resistance. And when Brexit is finally nailed, a fair few soft Leavers will discover they had been Remainers all along, because everyone likes to be on the winning side.

~

by John King

A timeless podcast series: A History of the World in 100 Objects

The ice age carving of swimming reindeers, the Olmec stone mask, the Hebrew astrolabe, or the North American buckskin map. All of these are objects of undoubted historical significance, but it’s difficult for most people to get excited about them.

Enter Neil McGregor, former Director of the British Museum, who takes us for a walk amongst the vitrines as he tells us stories filled with wit and curiosity.

In each of the one-hundred short episodes, an object is chosen and placed in its time: who made it? How did its maker see the world? Why was it revolutionary? The series is a journey, covering 2 billion years and stretching the globe, in which the listener comes to understand how humans became what we are today.

 

Photographs of all objects can be seen on the BBC website. 

By Isabel Seeger

5 things to expect from the second phase of Brexit negotiations

Brexit negotiations are due to move onto ‘Phase 2’ in the next few weeks, after EU leaders finally signed off on a painful first round on the 15th December 2017. Here are five things we expect to see in the second round: 

*Ding ding ding.*

Obfuscation

“They say it takes two to tango,’ said British Chancellor Philip Hammond to the BBC in January. “Both sides need to be clear about what they want.”

Which is exactly what the other side is asking for (clarity, not doing the tango with Phil). “The first big step is for the U.K. to say very clearly what it wants in clear terms,” stated Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat at the EU summit in December. A sentiment echoed by Michel Barnier: “There must be a precise negotiating position of the U.K. government.”

Unfortunately, neither side is dancing in reality. During Phase One, the EU repeatedly told the U.K. to clarify its position on citizens’ rights, the divorce bill and the Northern Irish border. The bloc remained united, and eventually the U.K. yielded, agreeing to a bill of up to €39 billion, a fairly weak citizens’ rights agreement, and a seamless and frictionless” Irish border.

Now that those issues have (at least partly) been put to bed, the real misunderstandings can begin. The first round, as difficult as it was, was at least centred around three tangible issues. The second-round focuses on a much vaguer outcome: the framework of the future relationship.

All these factors are going to make Phase Two extremely difficult. In comparison, Phase One will look like negotiating the sale of a second-hand Volkswagen, or a timeshare in Skiathos.

Already disagreements have emerged over the wording: the EU wishes to focus on the ‘framework’ whereas the U.K. accentuates the ‘future relationship’.

It’s no secret that Theresa May wants a transition deal to be agreed quickly: uncertainty is bad for business. But Michel Barnier has set a deadline of October 2018 to negotiate a transition deal, which is far later than the U.K.’s preferred deadline of March 2018. This transition deal will require the approval of the European Parliament, which will have its own requirements for the second phase of talks.

Not only will they need to agree on a transitional deal, but also a framework for future EU-U.K. trade. Again, this will require approval from European leaders, who will each have differing opinions on how quickly to advance trade talks.

All these factors are going to make Phase Two extremely difficult. In comparison, Phase One will look like negotiating the sale of second-hand Volkswagen, or a timeshare in Skiathos. How do you negotiate a trade deal with someone you’re already trading with? Until 2019, the U.K. it is still a full member of the EU. Politico reported that a senior EU official stated: “We cannot officially negotiate with the U.K. on a trade deal as long as they are a member state.”

Essentially, the U.K invoked Article 50, and will returned to third-country status under Article 218, whilst trying to agree a deal on trade. Good thing Poland is busy logging away their forests – a lot of paperwork is going to be needed.

A lot of talk about trade

Trade is going to feature heavily in Phase Two, because both sides want to know how much cash is at stake.

Expect disagreements here too. Brussels has repeatedly stated that the trade deal will consist of two options: Norway-style, or a Canada-style. Conversely, the UK wants a tailored deal, which would include “ongoing access to the EU market, the freedom to diverge from the bloc on certain rules, and ongoing cooperation with some EU agencies, such as Europol.”

Talks will need to cover all the main sectors of trade: financial services, pharmaceuticals, automobiles, aerospace, agriculture… These industries are massive and complex, each with their own subset of legalities. To date, businesses have largely been left in the dark, with the various captains of industry becoming increasingly agitated. In a joint statement, leaders of five U.K business groups stated: “the transition period must now be agreed as soon as possible…further delays to discussions on an EU-UK trade deal could have damaging consequences for business investment and trade”.

Two fractured sides of the table

Brexit has created its own political dividing lines, and Left and Right continue to find themselves, perhaps unwittingly, on the same side.

…a far-right coalition in Austria, a leaderless Germany and a recalcitrant Hungary and Poland, one thing is for certain: realpolitik is alive and well in the minds of European leaders.

Resultantly, the UK government – in particular the cabinet – is anything but united. Tango Master/Chancellor Philip Hammond represents a faction fighting for a soft-Brexit, placing him in opposition to the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who seems to want to bring back the 18th century swashbuckling Britannia of old. Throw some Tory rebels into the mix and you have yourself a collection of fiefdoms, in disagreement over everything from the length of the transition period to the retention of single market membership.

The disunity isn’t limited to the UK, mind you. French President Emmanuel Macron has warned against the EU 27 acting in their own interests in the next phase: “That’s what the prisoner’s dilemma is all about,’ he said. ‘Everyone can have an interest in negotiation on their own and think they can negotiate better than their neighbour.” These comments were echoed by Donald Tusk, who said he had “no doubt that the real test of our unity will be the second phase of the Brexit talks.”

With Norway threatening to rip up their current deal with the EU, a crisis in Catalonia, an election looming in Italy, a far-right coalition in Austria, a leaderless Germany and a recalcitrant Hungary and Poland, one thing is for certain: realpolitik is alive and well in the minds of European leaders.

Come back, wayward son

The European Union will continue to tell the UK it can re-join the club at any point before Brexit happens.  

Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker have both expressed their desire to retain Britain as a member of the EU. The former even said that Britain could reapply for EU membership post-Brexit, which will most likely turn British politics into one, never ending discussion about EU membership. Think M.C Escher.

A new government White Paper depicting the current state of negotiations.

The spectre of citizens’ rights

Lingering issues about citizens’ rights will crop up in the second round of negotiations. Several citizens’ rights groups – such as the 3million and Bremain in Spain – have made their dissatisfaction clear, and will continue to lobby against the loss of freedom of movement. Even small groups of expats have started to take legal action: British citizens living in Holland went to court earlier this year in a bid to retain freedom of movement.

We believe there are still a number of questions about citizens’ rights to which neither the EU Commission or UK parliament have provided a satisfactory answer. Certainly, trade will dominate the discussions, and it is vital that grass-roots movements and individuals maintain the pressure for greater clarity over citizens’ rights.

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by Max Caskie

The Power Vertical podcast: The ‘Whatever’ Election coming up in Russia

On March 18, Putin will be re-elected as president of Russia for the fourth time. The story, however, does not end here. While it is reasonable to expect that there won’t be a new President, the upcoming election is far from unimportant. Putin needs more than just the majority if he wants to retain his legitimacy and, ultimately, power.

In the recent episode of The Power Vertical podcast, Journalist Brian Whitmore and his guests discuss the specificities of this “election that isn’t”: the ambiguous role of widespread apathy, the importance of turnout over actual vote, the means and limits of political engineering, and the possible tactics of the opposition.

 

Note: The podcast assumes some prior knowledge of Russian politics. If not familiar with either of the following, a quick search is recommended: Putin-Medvedev swap, United Russia, Alexei Navalny, Xenia Sobchak.

 

By Isabel Seeger