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The Guardian view on the Brexit talks: finding the right price to pay | Editorial

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21 November, by Editorial[ —]
After weeks of unreality, the cabinet has started to face the facts over the EU divorce bill. But there is a very long way to go

The Downing Street official spokesperson refused to confirm it on the record, but key members of Theresa May’s cabinet agreed on Monday to increase Britain’s “divorce bill” offer to the European Union from the £20bn that the prime minister had signalled in Florence in September. This is a significant milestone. Three cheers for finally passing it? Certainly not. It would have been better if Britain had not voted to leave the European Union in the first place. Two cheers, then, for at least facing up to reality? That’s overly generous too, because the decision this week is extremely light on detail or figures. The best that can be said is that it is better to have decided to increase the payment than to have refused to do so. The most that the decision deserves is a cautious sigh of relief.

If, in the end, Britain does leave the EU, the least bad departure would be one that takes place on terms that maintain a high level of convergence and cooperation with the Europe it leaves behind. Such a “soft” Brexit would do least damage to the economy, be least disruptive to jobs, wages and working conditions, and do least violence to the rich texture of relationships that bind the British people to our nearest neighbours. Mrs May’s misguided wish to leave the single market and the customs union makes that task much more difficult than it should be. But any hope that this or any successor government can achieve a tolerable soft Brexit depends upon progress in the talks between the EU and the UK that reach an interim climax in Brussels next month. This week’s decision at least opens up that possibility.

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The Guardian view on Mugabe’s resignation: the end of an era in Zimbabwe | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/morgan-tsvangiraiplay episode download
21 November, by Editorial[ —]
Zimbabweans cheered and sang as they learned that their president’s 37-year rule was over. But they understand the dangers ahead

Robert Mugabe’s removal from power on Tuesday was greeted as his ascension to it 37 years earlier had been: with jubilation. In Harare there was dancing and singing, honks and cheers, and tears of joy. Many of those celebrating have known no other ruler. Once he was a liberation hero to his people. When he lost their support he hung on by every means at his disposal. Now his brutal reign is over. But the hope is shaded this time by deep concern about what lies ahead.

Forcing his resignation was hardly simple: it took much manoeuvring, a military intervention and the opening of impeachment proceedings before he had to bow to the inevitable. What comes next is murkier still, though Emmerson Mnangagwa, his recently fired vice-president, is expected to take over. There is not much exultation on that score, except among “the Crocodile’s” relieved allies. They had attempted to brand a transition effected primarily by the military and factional interests in Zanu-PF, intent on preserving their own power and resources, as “a new era” – to understandable scorn. Mr Mnangagwa understands that he is not a popular figure in the country, even if the military seem to like him. He does not share Mr Mugabe’s liberation aura, yet is branded by their terrible record in power. His role in removing Mr Mugabe may lend him a degree of credibility, but his best hopes will rest on reviving the economy – and, perhaps, on deferring next summer’s elections for as much as three years.

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The Guardian view on Mugabe’s resignation: the end of an era in Zimbabwe | Editorial

https://www.theguardian.com/world/morgan-tsvangiraiplay episode download
21 November, by Editorial[ —]
Zimbabweans cheered and sang as they learned that their president’s 37-year rule was over. But they understand the dangers ahead

Robert Mugabe’s removal from power on Tuesday was greeted as his ascension to it 37 years earlier had been: with jubilation. In Harare there was dancing and singing, honks and cheers, and tears of joy. Many of those celebrating have known no other ruler. Once he was a liberation hero to his people. When he lost their support he hung on by every means at his disposal. Now his brutal reign is over. But the hope is shaded this time by deep concern about what lies ahead.

Forcing his resignation was hardly simple: it took much manoeuvring, a military intervention and the opening of impeachment proceedings before he had to bow to the inevitable. What comes next is murkier still, though Emmerson Mnangagwa, his recently fired vice-president, is expected to take over. There is not much exultation on that score, except among “the Crocodile’s” relieved allies. They had attempted to brand a transition effected primarily by the military and factional interests in Zanu-PF, intent on preserving their own power and resources, as “a new era” – to understandable scorn. Mr Mnangagwa understands that he is not a popular figure in the country, even if the military seem to like him. He does not share Mr Mugabe’s liberation aura, yet is branded by their terrible record in power. His role in removing Mr Mugabe may lend him a degree of credibility, but his best hopes will rest on reviving the economy – and, perhaps, on deferring next summer’s elections for as much as three years.

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The Guardian view on Black Friday: a triumph of imagination | Editorial

20 November, by Editorial[ —]
Recreational shopping is not about collecting objects so much as experiences

On Thursday, nothing out of the ordinary will happen in Britain. Millions of people will get up and go to work as normal; families will remain widely dispersed; shops will be open as usual; and at the end of the day the nation will gather for its traditional meals of takeaway and microwaved convenience foods eaten in front of a screen. In the US, by contrast, it will be the feast of Thanksgiving, when the whole country shuts down and families gather from across vast distances for a ritual meal celebrating America’s founding myth. An anthropologist might well suppose that this was the most important festival of the year, far more so than Christmas. No one would dare declare a war on Thanksgiving. So it makes a kind of sense that the day after be given over to the frenzy of shopping.

It makes no sense at all for Black Friday to be transplanted to Britain. There is nothing at all special about the day in the British social calendar. Even in the retail calendar it falls squarely in the middle of the runup to Christmas, which nowadays starts some time in early October, so that there are already angels watching over the crowds in Oxford Street in central London, while in Bradford the Christmas decorations went up even earlier.

Related: UK shoppers forecast to spend £10bn in Black Friday sales

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The Guardian view on Germany’s political crisis: the start of the post-Merkel era? | Editorial

20 November, by Editorial[ —]
The failure of the three-party coalition talks in Germany may make it difficult for the chancellor to stay on

Nearly two months after Germany’s general election, talks aimed at forming a three-party coalition between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), the Free Democratic party and the Greens have collapsed. The FDP walked out of a late-night round of negotiations on Sunday, saying it had been impossible to reach a compromise on migration and the environment. Unless the three-party deadlock is somehow ended, Germany could go one of three ways: Mrs Merkel might try to form a coalition with the opposition Social Democrats (SPD), which the SPD has ruled out; she might form a minority government, presumably with only one other party, which would be a new experience for postwar Germany; or, new elections might eventually be called.

This is an important moment. Each of these scenarios produces considerable political uncertainty in Europe’s powerhouse. The reverberations are sure to be felt not just in Germany itself, where the impact could be destabilising or could shock the country back together in some way. It is also certain to impact on the EU’s prospects of rebooting its project, at a time when the eurozone, security, migration, Vladimir Putin’s meddling, relations with Turkey, democratic backsliding in Poland and Hungary, and Brexit all need attending to. Monday’s nervous market reaction hinted at some of what is at stake.

Related: German president calls on party leaders to return to coalition talks

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The Guardian view on the housing crisis: Fiscal Phil’s last chance

https://www.theguardian.com/business/barrattdevelopmentsplay episode download
19 November, by Editorial[ —]
The chancellor claimed there were no unemployed people. That’s 1.4m reasons to do something bold about the catastrophic shortage of homes

The chancellor approaches his second budget on Wednesday from a position of vulnerability. A little like the polar bear on the thawing iceberg, but less cuddly, he is a lonely figure marooned in a shrinking world, the political climate set against him, fundamentally ill-equipped to change it. His unsuitability for the political times in which he finds himself was advertised again on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday morning, when he declared that there were no unemployed. No matter that he was trying to make a point about the historic capacity of a growing economy to absorb workers with outdated skills. His single task this week was to give substance to the Tory claim to be the party of the just-managing; instead he accidentally wrote 1.4m people who are looking for work out of the economic picture.

Whatever he now says on Wednesday, those four words, “there are no unemployed”, will hang in the air. They give the lie to the claim that his is a government that intends to change people’s lives for the better. They will – despite the confidence in the future that they imply – empower his critics among the hardline Brexiters who accuse him of broadcasting gloom; and they will reinforce the lack of confidence in Fiscal Phil that emanates from No 10, where the spring budget shambles that led to a U-turn over national insurance contributions will not have been forgotten. This is a chancellor who can’t see the politics in the Treasury spreadsheet.

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The Guardian view on Brexit and the Irish border: Britain’s shameful dereliction | Editorial

19 November, by Editorial[ —]
From the referendum campaign onwards, Brexiters have ignored the dire implications for Ireland. The neglect is a political and moral failure alike

Throughout his career, Gerry Adams relentlessly singled out the British government for the blame in Ireland’s troubles. In truth, the responsibility for Northern Ireland’s miseries was widely shared, not least with the IRA and Sinn Féin, of which Mr Adams has been for so long the chief strategist. Yet it is ironic that the Sinn Féin leader announced his retirement from frontline politics at the weekend. For Mr Adams is stepping down at the very moment when a British government is unambiguously the sole cause of a massively hostile act against Ireland, north and south, in the form of a hard Brexit.

From start to finish, Conservative Brexiters have shown that they simply could not care less about Ireland. In the referendum campaign, few gave even a passing thought to the impact of a leave vote on the relationship between Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and the republic. When the vote went their way – though they lost in Northern Ireland – the Brexiters then gave bland assurances that the decision would make absolutely no difference to the island’s soft border, the legacy of the peace process, or north-south and east-west cooperation.

Ireland’s new taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, has been much more sceptical than the UK about the potential for avoiding border posts via virtual checks on importers. Whilst agreeing with British ministers and EU negotiators that it is inconceivable for there to be a return to a hard border with the north, Dublin argues that the best way for the UK to achieve this would be by permanently remaining in a customs union with the EU and seeking single market membership like Norway through the European Economic Area. The UK has conceded that some of this will be necessary in its interim phase after Brexit, but hopes clever technological solutions can allow it have looser economic links in the long run. Varadkar is not alone in being sceptical about whether such a cake-and-eat-it customs and trade strategy is viable.

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The Observer view on Saudi Arabia, the US and Yemen

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/trump-administrationplay episode download
19 November, by Observer editorial[ —]

While Yemen starves, Trump moves ever close to its tormenter, the headstrong ruler of Saudi Arabia

Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, is a young man in a hurry. So, too, is Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser. Together, they make a dangerous combination. By all accounts, the two men have become firm friends, forging a strong bond melding youth and power. Kushner, 36, made his third visit to Saudi Arabia this year at the end of October. He reportedly talked late into the night with Salman, 32, at the latter’s desert ranch.

Shortly after the meeting, three things happened: Salman began a sweeping purge of wealthy royal rivals; he launched a silent coup in Lebanon; and the Saudi armed forces imposed an aid blockade on Yemeni ports, which (though now partly eased) threatens a humanitarian catastrophe. The White House, supportive of its Saudi friends, made no criticism. Trump tweeted support for the purge. Thanks in part to Kushner, his first foreign trip was to Riyadh, where he was feted by the autocratic regime. He feels a connection.

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The Observer view on Philip Hammond’s budget

19 November, by Guardian Staff[ —]
The chancellor must finally banish the ghost of George Osborne and help the poor

At every opportunity, Theresa May has emphasised how much she wants her premiership to represent a break from the pre-Brexit past. From her first public words as prime minister on the steps of Downing Street, to her speech on housing last Thursday, she has consistently articulated that she will govern in the interests of ordinary working people. We are to believe that she does not just want to deliver Brexit, she wants to address the economic and cultural factors that helped bring it about.

But May has turned down every opportunity to make things better. The deindustrialisation and loss of employment and identity that helped foment the conditions for Brexit are decades old.

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The Guardian view on climate talks: Brexit’s heavy weather | Editorial

17 November, by Editorial[ —]
If Brexit goes ahead, Britain will need to shape a green politics with devolution and social justice at its core. And make sure that politicians cannot renege on our international obligations

The tragedy of climate change, as the governor of the Bank of England has put it, is one of the horizon. The catastrophic impacts of altering the atmosphere impose an enormous cost on future generations that the current generation creates but has no incentive to fix. To focus the minds of today’s decision-makers the 2015 Paris agreement sent a clear signal that the era of fossil-fuel-powered growth was coming to an end. The signatories agreed to limit global warming to no more than a two-degree celsius rise, the threshold of safety, beyond which climate change is likely to become irreversible. The real genius of Paris is not that it is rooted in science but its timing and its structure. While the 2C target was binding, the national targets agreed by each nation were not. Those non-binding targets do not add up to a 2C world – they would, if followed to the letter, lead us to a 3C one, unthinkable in terms of the devastation it would cause. So upping them was part of the point of this year’s UN climate meeting in Bonn, which closed on Friday, and will be the main issue at next year’s, and the year after next.

The US under Donald Trump reneged on the deal before this year’s talks began. There is some solace in the fact that Washington cannot formally withdraw until 4 November 2020, the day after the next presidential election. The rest of the world, rightly, is moving on. Given what is at stake, it is worth pausing to consider where – and how quickly – the globe is going. Backwards – if one considers that China will almost single-handedly cause global emissions of carbon dioxide to grow in 2017. Canada and Britain, meanwhile, began a new 19-nation alliance in Bonn aimed at phasing out the use of coal power by 2030. This sounds like an important move until one realises that members of the “powering past coal alliance” account for less than 3% of coal use worldwide. Germany, which is not a member, held the climate talks an hour’s drive from a village that is being demolished to make way for a coalmine. These green talks, which are fundamentally about ethical concerns, are nevertheless becoming more like discussions about trade. In the case of climate change these involve transitions from one way of producing, distributing and consuming energy to another, cleaner way of doing so. It would be good if this could be seen only as a process of mutual support. However, as the talks in Bonn show, they are also hard-nosed negotiations which revolve around the exchange of concessions.

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