‘The future of UK-EU relations depends on the fate of Boris Johnson’

Your digest of analysis from the British and international press

Boris Johnson
(Image credit: Leon Neal / Getty Images)

1. The Johnson factor

Mujtaba Rahman for Politico Europe

on future relations

“The relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union was never going to be easy after Brexit – and so far, it sure hasn’t been,” says Mujtaba Rahman at Politico. Disagreements over the Northern Ireland Protocol and Anglo-French relations have “marred” the past year, and whether the next 12 months “will be better or worse really depends upon one question: the fate of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson”. The PM is currently “embroiled in his deepest crisis since assuming the top job”, and faces “mounting pressure on multiple fronts”. The UK’s “rapidly darkening domestic backdrop… has reduced Johnson’s stomach for a fight with Brussels even further”, says Rahman. If Johnson “doesn’t make it”, Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss could take his place. Sunak “would likely adopt a more pragmatic approach”, while the foreign secretary “would likely stick to Johnson’s hardball approach”. It’s clear that relations between the UK and EU “aren’t going to get better” with Johnson in charge, but “his departure doesn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t get worse”.

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2. Burnt-out and underpaid social workers can’t be blamed for every Arthur and Star Hobson

Vince Peart for the Daily Mirror

on protection and responsibility

Arthur Labinjo-Hughes and Star Hobson were “two innocent and defenceless children who died at the hands of those who should have loved them most”, writes Vince Peart at The Mirror. The child protection practitioner and independent social worker says that their “tragically short lives will have turned the public’s stomach sick with grief and anger”. And “as questions are rightly asked” about how their deaths could have happened, that both children were involved with social services “will be brought to the forefront of the debate”. There can be “no shying away from the fact” that in both these children’s cases “there were indeed missed opportunities for intervention”. But “social workers did not murder these children, and the blame cannot be laid solely at the feet of professionals”. The issues, says Peart, “are systematic and societal”, and as such “require systematic and societal responses”. If lessons are truly to be learnt, “then we must start by building up the social work profession instead of knocking it down”.

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3. The Tory grassroots will never forgive Boris

Madeline Grant for The Telegraph

on missed opportunities

“Since her departure Theresa May has enjoyed a post-No 10 rehabilitation of sorts,” says Madeline Grant at The Telegraph. She’s gone from “weak, unpopular Calamity Jane to unofficial Queen of the backbenches”, and “has been an articulate, effective thorn in the Government’s side” on “everything from lockdown to Afghanistan”. One can imagine May in the future “swanning about future Tory conferences as grande dame”. Grant asks: “when the time comes, will the Tory grassroots be so forgiving of Bozza?” The pandemic has certainly “dealt the PM a particularly terrible hand”. Even so, “he is arguably the first PM since Thatcher to have a meaningful chance to define his own form of Conservatism, yet ‘Johnsonism’ remains amorphous”. No other Tory leader in recent years has had “such a unique opportunity to implement vital reform or make conservatism palatable to future generations”. And equally, “none has squandered it quite so quickly”.

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4. The truth will come out on the Jan. 6 insurrection

Scot Lehigh for The Boston Globe

on ignoring messages

“The truth is dripping out about the events of the 6 January US Capitol insurrection,” says Scot Lehigh at The Boston Globe. For Donald Trump and his son, “and his Fox News sycophants, the drops are as corrosive as acid”. Text messages sent to and from former chief of staff Mark Meadows “help untangle the truth” of what was happening in the White House that day. “Meadows received frantic messages” from members of his administration and congress, calling for the president “to do something to stop the mayhem”. Even Donald Trump Jr, “not necessarily the most perspicacious observer abroad in the land, realised this was disaster”. Meadows’s own texts reveal he agreed with the president’s son “and was pushing Trump hard to do something”. It is now apparent that “Trump was aware of the violence and was being urged... to condemn it forcefully”. It should be obvious “why most of Trumpworld is stonewalling the 6 January committee: the truth is lethal to the former president”.

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5. The ‘West Side Story’ remake we didn’t need

Yarimar Bonilla for The New York Times

on the same old story

Yarimar Bonilla confesses that she never saw the original West Side Story. But writing in The New York Times, she recognises that for first- and second-generation Puerto Ricans living in the US at the time, the 1961 film “offered a recognition of the Puerto Rican presence” in America, despite “the dearth of actual Latino actors, the mishmash of Caribbean and Spanish culture and the deep stereotypes it trafficked in”. The filmmakers behind Steven Spielberg’s 2021 remake of the classic musical “stressed that this one would be different”, and there are many details that the film “gets right”. But even though the two-and-a-half-hour remake “is littered with symbols of Puerto Rico’s nationalist movements”, says Bonilla, “there is no recognition of how people who embraced these symbols have long been surveilled and criminalised by the federal and Puerto Rican governments”. If the director and his team are “truly committed to authentic Latino stories, they would do well to move away from trying to make old representations more palatable to a contemporary public”, and instead “focus on nurturing and supporting” Latino talent.

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