‘Never before have all the main engines of European integration caught fire simultaneously’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

Angela Merkel and Ursula von der Leyen in the European Parliament
Olivier Matthys/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

1. Europe’s calamitous vaccine programme has surely killed off the case for ever-closer union

Patrick O’Flynn in The Telegraph

on blundering Brussels

Europe’s vaccine rollout has seen “Brussels humiliated, the President of France humiliated, the Chancellor of Germany likewise”, writes Patrick O’Flynn in The Telegraph. “Never before have all the main engines of European integration caught fire simultaneously.” The “full horrendous consequences of the great inoculation bungle have yet to play out”, he continues, but “they will not have fixed things either by the time autumn arrives, bringing the risk of a third major Covid wave.” “This failure of the European system of governance – the consequence of an obsession with ever-closer union – is so serious that it is likely to have profound and long-lasting impacts.”

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2. Rishi Sunak knows a budget spending spree must be paid for

Daniel Finkelstein in The Times

on clawing back losses

“At the end of last year, the chancellor of the exchequer asked the Treasury to help him with a bit of history,” says Daniel Finkelstein in The Times. “Over the past 30 years, had his predecessors generally been tax raisers or tax cutters?” The calculation isn’t as simple as it seems”, he says, but the finding was that “raising taxes is un-Conservative and something Tories only do when departing from true doctrine”. But Sunak is no ordinary Tory chancellor as the pandemic means “we are clearly going to need to do something to start closing the gap between tax and spending”. “One of the core principles” of Conservative government in the past decade “has been that this country has to pay its bills”, Finkelstein adds. “And while people don’t like paying bills, they understand this principle and agree with it.”

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3. How elimination versus suppression became Covid’s cold war

Laura Spinney in The Guardian

on diverging tactics

A year ago, epidemiologist Michael Baker “decided that New Zealand (population 5 million) should go its own way, and started lobbying the government to pursue a Covid elimination strategy”, writes Laura Spinney in The Guardian. But, unlike New Zealand, “the rest of the world is pursuing a mitigation and suppression strategy”. The divide has “cleaved” the world in two, “with each bloc operating according to a different set of assumptions, in a kind of public health rerun of the cold war. One bloc assumes that Covid-19 can be eliminated, the other that it can’t. The latter thinks the former is chasing an impossible utopia. The former thinks the utopia could be achieved if only everyone pulled together.”

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4. Trump should be a celebrity vaccine ambassador

Michelle Cottle in The New York Times

on pushing the jab

“There’s still too much vaccine hesitancy” in the US, says Michelle Cottle in The New York Times, and “skepticism has stayed stubbornly high among one big cohort: Republicans”. “Clearly, America needs a big marketing push targeted at vaccine-skittish conservatives”, she continues, adding that the “obvious solution” is to “have Donald Trump become a celebrity vaccine crusader”. Noting that the former president “sowed the seeds for this idea during his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference” over the weekend, she suggests that “the former president desperately needs something to do with his time”. “And what a perfect messenger for the cause.”

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5. I’m tired of hearing that universities are closed – staff are still working all hours

Alexis Paton in The Independent

on online learning

“Students are not the only people caught up in the changes to academic life”, argues Alexis Paton in The Independent. “Staff have weathered the storm, too, largely ignored and forgotten” while “their experiences have been given the cold shoulder in favour of attention-grabbing headlines about the value of online degrees”. While admitting that some “students are missing out on hands-on learning”, Paton continues that, for many, “while the lectures and seminars are now online, the provision is the same each week”. “That only the venue has changed for so many degrees seems to be an important bit of context missing from how university education provision has been portrayed.”

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