‘Patience wearing very thin,’ says EU negotiator, while Joe Biden expected to raise ‘deep concerns’ about issue at summit
First published on Wed 9 Jun 2021 08.51 EDT
Talks between the EU and the UK over Northern Ireland appear on the brink of collapse as London indicated it was still considering unilateral action to keep unhindered supplies flowing from Great Britain into the region.
The European commission vice-president, Maroš Šefčovič, said patience was “wearing very, very thin” and described the relationship with the UK as “at a crossroads”.
Amid fears that the escalating crisis over Northern Ireland would develop into a trade war, David Frost, the Brexit minister, said there had been “no breakthroughs” over the Brexit checks but no “breakdowns” after a two-hour meeting with Šefčovič in London.
They agreed to continue to try to find a solution before 30 June when a ban on chilled meats including sausages and mincemeat is due to come into force.
Late on Wednesday, Boris Johnson insisted that there was no crisis. “I’m very very optimistic about this. I think that’s easily doable,” he said, referring to an issue that was at the heard of the fraught Irish border negotiations two years ago: preventing a border on the island of Ireland while protecting trade within the UK post-Brexit.
Johnson’s optimism could face a challenge at the G7 meeting on Thursday, however, when Joe Biden will warn him and the EU not to “imperil” the Northern Ireland peace process.
The US president landed at an RAF base in Suffolk on Wednesday evening. Earlier his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, had said that Biden harboured “very deep” concerns on the issue provoked by Brexit, which would be raised in a bilateral meeting with the prime minister at the summit in Cornwall.
Behind the scenes, UK sources were more trenchant than Johnson about the row with the EU. “All the options remain on the table,” said a senior source close to the talks when asked about the possibility of unilateral action to extend a grace period for checks on chilled meats that ends on 30 June.
On the prospect of retaliation and a trade war, the source said: “We feel like we’ve heard this before. Nobody wants to get into a trade war or anything close to it, obviously.
“Unfortunately we have got used to living in an atmosphere where there are threats made to us, and not just in this context. The EU quite often seems to resort to threats at a relatively early stage in the process.”
At a long press conference in London, Šefčovič repeatedly expressed frustration with the UK’s broken promises to implement the protocol in Northern Ireland.
“If the UK were to take further unilateral action in the coming weeks, we will not be shy in reacting swiftly, firmly and resolutely.”
Asked what form that might take, he said it could include legal action, arbitration or other retaliatory measures, including targeted tariffs, which has prompted talk of a UK-EU “sausage war” on the Great British side of the Channel.
But he said: “We don’t want this to happen … It’s not too late. Let’s correct the path.”
He said the UK had had ample opportunities up to January to express concern that the agreed Brexit checks would not work, but insisted they would be implemented.
Šefčovič said he had asked Michael Gove at his first meeting in March last year whether the UK was ready for the checks, as the EU had never outsourced border controls to a third country before.
He was reassured then and again in December that all would proceed as negotiated, he said.
“If you are sending sausage, cheese or meat products to Northern Ireland the very easy solution is to just put the sticker on it: ‘for Northern Ireland only’, and … we agreed on a simplified export health certificate. Do you think that one of these things has happened? No, none, nothing was done,” he said.
He described the meeting with Lord Frost as “very difficult”, revealing the relationship got off to a rocky start when the UK minister announced a unilateral decision to pull the plug on some of the protocol.
It was just “several hours before our first phone call” and “was not the best way how to start a new relationship,” said Šefčovič.
There are now fears that the UK, which first threatened to take matters into its own hands with the internal market bill, may take unilateral action a third time on 30 June.
“The problem we’ve got is the protocol is being implemented in a way which is causing disruption in Northern Ireland and we had some pretty frank and honest discussions about that situation today,” Frost said.
Šefčovič said the UK may not have understood what it was getting into. “It might be that our British partners couldn’t fully estimate the total consequences of the Brexit they have chosen; what it would mean to leave the single market, the customs union, how complex it would be for businesses,” he said.
In a statement, the UK side said no substantive progress had been made on the prospect of a veterinary agreement, which the EU believes could mean 80% of the agrifood checks disappear and could work as a temporary measure.
Ministers have objected to the proposal on the grounds that it would mean London observing EU laws again, just six months after Boris Johnson went ahead with a hard Brexit, severing the country’s links to the bloc’s trade rules.
Other areas where substantive progress was not made, according to the UK, included freedom of movement for pets without passports, trusted trader status for agrifood suppliers, and tariffs on steel and parcels.
Progress was made on guide dogs entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain and the EU’s repeated request for access to UK customs IT systems. The EU had promised further proposals on the supply of medicines and livestock movements, Downing Street said.
Sanders signals openness to adjusting SALT cap
Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent in charge of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, signaled on Tuesday an openness to adjusting the cap on how much taxpayers can deduct in state and local taxes as he seeks to secure the support of nearly every Democrat in Congress for a multitrillion-dollar economic package.
Some congressional Democrats have warned that they may not support any changes to the tax code that do not also address that provision, put in place during the Trump administration, because of the impact on their constituents.
A draft budget document circulated by staff members on Capitol Hill and obtained by The New York Times included money to address the cap, which primarily increases the tax bills of higher-income residents of high-tax states like New York and California. The funding was not included in Mr. Biden’s original proposals and could amount to a partial repeal of the cap for some taxpayers.
“I have a problem with extremely wealthy people being able to get the complete deduction,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview, though he did not comment on specific details. “I think that’s an issue we’ll have to work on.”
Democrats have begun to move forward to pass some, if not all, of Mr. Biden’s economic agenda through the fast-track budget reconciliation process in order to bypass a Republican filibuster in the Senate. But the openness from Mr. Sanders underscored the breadth of compromises that rank-and-file lawmakers may have to accept to secure the necessary support of all 50 senators who caucus with Democrats and nearly every House Democrat.
Mr. Sanders, who has pushed for as much as $6 trillion in spending should bipartisan negotiations on a narrower infrastructure package collapse, said he had asked Democrats on his committee to outline their priorities as he moves to build consensus around an outline.
“OK, look, what do you think? What kind of numbers you’re comfortable with? And where would you like to cut back?” Mr. Sanders said as he described his approach. “We haven’t heard a lot about the cutting back.”
But he acknowledged the challenge in such maneuvers even as he pushes for various liberal priorities, including expanding Medicare benefits and eligibility and more spending. “We’re going to have to make sure that we end up with numbers that 50 members can agree on,” he said.
Mr. Sanders said he had not yet received a commitment from every senator for a $6 trillion package, even as he warned that a bipartisan infrastructure agreement would clear the Senate only with the promise that every Democrat would also support a reconciliation package.
“We’re going to have to work hard, and, you know, make some trade-offs, and so forth and so on,” he said. “I am more than willing to speak to every member and hear what they have to say.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, were expected to meet with White House officials Tuesday evening to discuss both bipartisan talks and the reconciliation process.
Among those expected to attend the meeting, according to an official familiar with the plans, were Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council; Steve Ricchetti, a top adviser to Mr. Biden; Louisa Terrell, the director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs; Shalanda Young, the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget; and Susan Rice, the White House domestic policy adviser.
The meeting comes after a series of lengthy huddles on Tuesday between a bipartisan group of centrist senators and White House officials. Those talks, spearheaded by Senators Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, are expected to continue Wednesday.
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Asked about a statement from the Loyalist Communities Council saying Irish government ministers are no longer welcome in Northern Ireland, Lewis says that ministers from Ireland – and indeed from almost all other countries in the world – are welcome in Northern Ireland.
He says if anyone is threatening violence, that is not helpful.
Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary, is giving evidence to the Commons Northern Ireland affairs committee.
Simon Hoare (Con), the committee chair, opens the questioning.
Should I Hang Out With Someone Whose Political Views I Hate?
The magazine’s Ethicist columnist on whether it’s hypocritical for a liberal to socialize with an increasingly extreme conservative.
I am a liberal in a blue city in a red state. One of my friends is married to a man who has become increasingly conservative over the past year (an “anti-Black Lives Matter, anti-abortion, Democrats are all idiots and socialists are taking over the country” mind-set), and his posts on social media are becoming more and more extreme. We occasionally socialize as couples. When we are together, I am friendly with him, and we avoid overt political talk, but as his social media becomes more and more extreme, I feel conflicted about continuing to accept invitations to socialize with them. Is it hypocritical of me to socialize with them when I find his personal political views so abhorrent? Name Withheld.
When I was 15 and in Britain for school, I came to know a neighbor of my English grandmother’s. Then in his 60s, he was a right-wing member of Parliament whose views on the major issues of the day were utterly remote from mine. All the same, we enjoyed spending time together — when he took me trout fishing, it always involved more talk than trout — and though politics was far from the only thing we discussed, it wasn’t a topic we avoided. Once, when he drove me to visit the college he had attended (and that I would too, just as he hoped), I spent two full hours trying to persuade him to support an upcoming resolution to maintain the abolition of capital punishment for murder. We must have made an odd pair — a reactionary M.P. with the strapping build of the heavyweight boxing champion he was as an undergraduate; a willowy brown teenager who kept up with what was then known as The Peking Review. Still, as we whizzed past the hedgerows and incurious sheep of the Cotswolds, we carried on a vigorous debate over an issue we both cared a great deal about.
I do understand why people prefer to limit their socializing to people who share their view of the world and to steer clear of the maddeningly misguided. In recent years, certainly, America has reshaped itself in ways that accommodate the tendency. With the rise of “assortative mating,” bankers — to paint in broad strokes — no longer marry secretaries; they marry other bankers. Doctors no longer marry nurses; they marry other doctors. And so on, up and down the lines of income and class. (Although social scientists have argued that this trend has deepened economic inequality, it also reflects substantial and welcome gains in gender equality in the workplace.) More to the point, the United States has become politically sorted: Increasingly, your neighborhood will be predominantly red or blue, not mixed. If racial segregation has diminished somewhat over the past generation, partisan segregation has risen.
And so have partisan identities. Your friend’s husband, that is, has the political views of his tribe. These views, as with any tribal shibboleths, will often matter to him because they are signs of his membership. Maybe a few of his views were arrived at by careful reflection, but he probably couldn’t argue effectively for most of his opinions before an open-minded audience. The trouble is that the same is almost certainly true of you. You have the liberal tribal beliefs and commitments. And — as a substantial body of social-science research suggests — you probably did not acquire them by deep and thoughtful analysis, because you are like most of us. Identity precedes ideology: Who you are determines what you believe.
I’m happy to stipulate that your views are enlightened and his benighted. Still, it’s possible that you and this fellow are in one respect allied — that you are both committed, as citizens, to participating together in the governance of this battered republic of ours. Despite the forces that would keep us socially and even geographically isolated from one another, you each have a reason to try to understand the other tribe; to figure out what its members believe and (to the extent that there are arguments involved) why they believe it. Democracy falters not when we disagree about things but when we lose interest in trying to make sense of the other person’s point of view and in trying to persuade that person of the merits of our own.
If you took no pleasure in hanging out with this person, you wouldn’t be asking me whether you can go on doing so. And yet you write as if there are only two options here — tolerating his views in silence or cutting him off. Here’s a third option: Stick with this fellow but speak up for your politics. Encourage him to do the same. When we stop talking even to people we know and like because of political disagreements, we’ve abandoned the deliberative-democratic project of governing the republic together.
Not that we should delude ourselves about our prospects for shifting the other person’s shibboleths. At the end of that car trip, my burly interlocutor got out of the car, stretched his legs and told me, almost ruefully: “You may have won all the arguments today. I’m still voting against the resolution.” It passed anyway. And there were many other topics to discuss, from village gossip to high politics, the next time we went fishing.
My daughter is getting married in the backyard of her fiancé’s parents’ home. The wedding is outside under a tent, and more than 100 people are attending. We have informally been keeping track of who is vaccinated of those who have accepted the invitation.
Nearly all the guests are vaccinated, including the bride and groom. But not the hosts — her fiancé’s parents. They don’t believe in the vaccine; they said they haven’t gotten it yet, which to me is an untruthful way of saying they are not getting it. The vaccine is readily available in their area; they could waltz in today without a wait. They also don’t like wearing masks.
The area is fairly quiet now, as the year-round population is small. Most homes are owned by those who spend only the summer there, and it is still off-season. But when the crowds descend, it will probably be a riskier area from a Covid-19-exposure perspective.
If my daughter’s in-laws agreed to host the wedding in their backyard, shouldn’t they have agreed to be fully vaccinated in consideration for the guests, tent-rental people, caterers, photographers and others? Name Withheld
It makes a big difference that this event is being held outdoors. The C.D.C. tells us that fully vaccinated people can, sans masks, safely attend even a crowded event if it’s outdoors. That rule doesn’t apply to those with compromised immune systems, who will want to take personal protective measures, but I fear the incautious parents of the groom may be the ones at greatest risk. Yes, for reasons both prudential and public-minded, they should get themselves vaccinated, substantially reducing their chance of contracting and transmitting infection and of worrying the newlyweds if they do fall ill. For the sake of harmony between your two clans, though, you might want to express yourself on this matter in a tone of concern rather than judgment. Weddings, after all, arose to celebrate the union of families, not just individuals.
Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at N.Y.U. His books include “Cosmopolitanism,” “The Honor Code” and “The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity.” To submit a query: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org; or send mail to The Ethicist, The New York Times Magazine, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018. (Include a daytime phone number.)
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Boris Johnson a pundit who stumbled into politics, says Cummings
Former aide says in Substack Q&A that No 10 is now ‘just a branch of the entertainment industry’
Last modified on Mon 21 Jun 2021 11.55 EDT
Downing Street under Boris Johnson is “a branch of the entertainment industry” and nothing will get done in terms of serious policy focus until he leaves, Dominic Cummings has said in his latest blast at his former boss.
In a question and answer session with paid subscribers to his Substack newsletter, Johnson’s former chief adviser described the prime minister as “a pundit who stumbled into politics and acts like that 99% of the time”.
Giving evidence to MPs last month, Cummings criticised Johnson as completely unfit to be prime minister, describing him as media obsessed and “like a shopping trolley smashing from one side of the aisle to the other”.
On Monday, answering a question on the potential cybersecurity threat to the UK if another country develops human-level artificial general intelligence, or AGI, Cummings wrote that this would be huge, potentially giving those with AGI “the power to subdue everyone – and destroy us all”.
Cummings said that if he had stayed at No 10 – he was dismissed in November – he would have ordered a focus on the threat, but this would not happen under Johnson.
“NOTHING like this now will get serious focus in no10 – no10 now is just a branch of entertainment industry and will stay so til BJ gone, at earliest,” he wrote.
“The most valuable commodity in gvt is focus and the PM literally believes that focus is a menace to his freedom to do whatever he fancies today, hence why you see the opposite of focus now and will do til he goes …”
Earlier in the lengthy thread, Cummings was asked if he saw Johnson more as a hedgehog or fox, a reference to a celebrated Isaiah Berlin essay that categorised people into those who inhabit one central idea and those with a broader view.
He replied: “Neither, he’s a pundit who stumbled into politics and acts like that 99% of the time but 1% not – and that 1% is why pundits misunderstand him/underestimate him.”
Among a string of answers covering everything from his admiration for the 19th-century German statesman Otto von Bismarck to lessons from the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, Cummings also talked about what he had learned from proximity to power.
He wrote: “When you watch the apex of power you feel like, ‘If this were broadcast, everyone would sell everything and head for the bunker in the hills’.
“It’s impossible to describe how horrific decision-making is at the apex of power and how few people watching it have any clue how bad it is or any sense of how to do it better, it’s generally the blind leading the blind with a few non-blind desperately shoving fingers in dykes and clutching their heads …”
Cummings found time to further insult Matt Hancock, having claimed during his evidence to MPs that the health secretary lied to colleagues amid the Covid pandemic, later releasing screenshots of a message in which Johnson called Hancock “totally hopeless”.
Asked by one reader about some statements made by Hancock about Covid, and whether these revealed a particular philosophical approach within government, Cummings said: “Hancock just says nonsense things all the time, I would not infer there is some complex moral reasoning going on!”
U.S. Outlines Plan to Send 55 Million Covid Vaccine Doses Overseas
“The Biden-Harris administration announced the distribution list for the remaining 55 million of the 80 million doses of America’s own vaccine supply President Biden has pledged to send out globally and allocate by the end of June in service of ending the pandemic. Already, we have sent millions of doses to the world, including 2.5 million doses that arrived in Taiwan this weekend and in addition, sharing doses — In addition to sharing doses from our own vaccine supply, the Biden-Harris administration is committed to working with U.S. manufacturers to produce more vaccine doses to share with the world. And we’ve purchased, as we announced last week, or the week before that, half a billion Pfizer doses to donate to 92 low- and middle-income countries, and members of the African Union.” “Is there any indication that the red tape in this distribution is costing lives at this point? Why is it taking so long?” “Well, first, let me say, we’re committed to allocating those doses. We’ve done exactly that. What we found to be the biggest challenge is not actually the supply. We have plenty of doses to share with the world, but this is a herculean logistical challenge, and we’ve seen that as we’ve begun to implement. So, you know, as we work with countries, we need to ensure that there’s safety and regulatory information shared. Some supply teams need needles, syringes and alcohol pads. Transportation teams need to ensure that there are proper temperature storage, prevent breakage and ensure the vaccine immediately clears customs. So this has not, as you all know, been done before. Sometimes it’s even language barriers that occur as we’re working to get these doses out to countries. So, we have announced today where these doses are going. We will continue to announce as they land on the ground and as they are being shipped. And we’re looking forward to doing that as quickly as possible.”
Sharon LaFraniere and
The White House outlined a plan on Monday to allocate 55 million doses of coronavirus vaccine around the world, the remainder of 80 million doses that President Biden pledged to send by the end of June to countries desperate for vaccine.
Mr. Biden has a week and a half to meet his deadline, a task made more difficult as the administration tries to change which manufacturers’ vaccines would be included in the 55 million portion. Production problems at an Emergent BioSolutions factory in Baltimore have forced the administration to revise its initial plan to rely heavily on AstraZeneca’s vaccine for that donation. The White House did not specify on Monday which vaccines it would be sharing, but people familiar with the operation have said the administration is working to swap shots made by Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for AstraZeneca’s.
The distribution formula closely followed the one that the White House announced earlier this month for the first 25 million doses in the president’s pledge. Three-fourths of the 55 million doses will go to Covax, an international vaccine sharing initiative that helps less wealthy nations. Of those, 14 million will go to countries in Latin America and the Caribbean; 16 million will be distributed to nations across Asia; and 10 million will be sent to countries in Africa.
The remaining one-fourth will be spread among at least two dozen places to help address virus surges, including Colombia, Argentina, Haiti, the Philippines, Vietnam, Iraq, Ukraine, Bosnia, South Africa, the West Bank and Gaza.
The donation of 80 million doses pales in comparison to the Biden administration’s plan, announced in early June, to share 500 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine within the next 12 months. But with many countries unable to vaccinate even a tiny percentage of their populations, global health officials are pressing the United States to move as quickly as possible to share its vaccine supply.
The gap in vaccination rates between rich and poor countries is stark. According to the Our World in Data project at the University of Oxford, high or upper middle countries account for 86 percent of shots administered worldwide while low-income countries account for less than half of one percent.
The federal government has purchased far more vaccine than the nation can possibly use, and distributed more than states can promptly administer as the pool of people eager to get vaccinated dwindles. More than 60 million doses of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are sitting in storage in states across the nation, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The White House said it is still working through a variety of logistical and regulatory issues involved in shipping vaccine overseas, like safely transporting the doses and, at times, having to send related supplies, like syringes and alcohol pads, along with them. It said it will release which specific vaccines are being shared and in what amounts later.
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