Brexit: The story of an island apart

  • 25 June 2016
  • From the section Magazine
The Union flag and the European Union flag on a beach

Our little archipelago of isles on the outer edges of a huge land mass has often thought of itself as rather special, even before it was the centre of an empire that changed the world.

As so often, Shakespeare put it best: "This precious stone set in the silver sea/ Which serves it in the office of a wall/ Or as a moat defensive to a house,/ Against the envy of less happier lands,/ This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England."

It is that silver sea that helps define our relationship with the rest of Europe.

These isles have very rarely been in isolation from it, whether splendid or otherwise. How could it be, as one historian recently argued, when the Magna Carta was signed by French nobles and the Bill of Rights designed for a Dutch prince?

But it has always kept a beady eye on other powers across the water.

Read full article Brexit: The story of an island apart

Is the world turning its back on free trade?

  • 16 June 2016
  • From the section World
Lord Randolph Churchill Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Lord Randolph Churchill denounced free trade

Which politician has captured the curve, summed up a growing mood, in a ferocious speech?

"Your iron industry is dead, dead as mutton. Your coal industries, which depend greatly on the iron industries, are languishing. Your silk industry is dead, assassinated by the foreigner. Your woollen industry is in articulo mortis, gasping, struggling. Your cotton industry is seriously sick. Your shipbuilding industry, which held out longest, is come to a standstill."

Read full article Is the world turning its back on free trade?

Will there be a general election before Christmas?

David Cameron Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Would David Cameron stand down if he lost the EU referendum?

We few, we very few, we merry band of brothers and sisters, have felt like pigs in the proverbial.

For those who delight in the electoral process, one delight has followed another - the local, regional and mayoral elections, all but a taster for the big event, the referendum.

Read full article Will there be a general election before Christmas?

Germany conflicted on how to handle Brexit

Reichstag building in Berlin
Image caption Seat of power: Politicians at the Reichstag are watching the debate closely

The head of the Berlin Stock Exchange, Artur Fischer, looks on happily as children run around and splash in the swimming pool at Berlin's international club.

Our talk of dark times when the city smouldered seem out of place on this sunny day amid the greenery and sounds of laughter.

Read full article Germany conflicted on how to handle Brexit

Ghost of Blair continues to haunt Labour

Tony Blair Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Tony Blair: A jovial ghost?

Adam Lang, the fictional British Prime Minister in Robert Harris' novel The Ghost faces prosecution for war crimes in an international court.

Lang is not so much a thinly veiled portrait of Tony Blair as an explicitly, obviously exotic extension, with added warts and delusions, of our former prime minister.

Read full article Ghost of Blair continues to haunt Labour

US election 2016: Can Trump surf a wave of discontent to top job?

Donald Trump Image copyright Getty Images

Could Donald Trump win, not just the Republican nomination, but the presidency itself?

The assumption is that Hillary Clinton will win: but I am not so sure.

Read full article US election 2016: Can Trump surf a wave of discontent to top job?

What does 'controlling our borders' really mean?

Tourists use a selfie stick outside the Louvre Image copyright AFP
Image caption Would Brits need a visa to make a trip across the Channel in the event of Brexit?

If we leave the European Union would you need a visa to go on holiday to France? Or need a permit to work in Germany? Both might sound far-fetched but they are possible outcomes of the perceived need to curb migration.

The desire of many voters to "control our borders" might be the Leave campaign's strongest suit. It is a fact that the UK cannot exclude workers from most of Europe while in the European Union. "Control our borders" is a clear slogan. But details of what it might mean in practice are, to say the least, extremely sketchy.

Read full article What does 'controlling our borders' really mean?

Stand by for another euro crisis

  • 21 April 2016
  • From the section Europe
A placard is seen during a protest against the visit of European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi in Lisbon Image copyright Reuters
Image caption European Central Bank president Mario Draghi wasn't welcomed by all in Lisbon

The European Union is staggering in the ring, like a bloodied boxer, taking punch after punch, staying just about upright, not because of improbable belief in victory but through the unacceptability of the alternative.

Just as the migration crisis eases, Berlin and Paris brace themselves for another blow - the possibility of the UK leaving the EU.

Read full article Stand by for another euro crisis

Politics in the age of the instant insult

Dennis Skinner Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dennis Skinner was expelled from the Commons for insulting the prime minister

The Beast's beastliness falls well short of savage these days, and generates only faux outrage in the stilted setting of green benches.

Veteran Labour MP Dennis Skinner, long nicknamed "the Beast of Bolsover" has been chucked out of the chamber for calling the prime minister "Dodgy Dave".

Read full article Politics in the age of the instant insult

Steel: Lessons of Ravenscraig loom over Port Talbot

  • 7 April 2016
  • From the section UK
"The Steelman" sculpture at Ravenscraig
Image caption A 16ft sculpture of a steelworker was unveiled last year where the Ravenscraig works once stood

The sports centre at Ravenscraig is a homage, a "symphony in steel", say the architects.

But the music in the air is understated these days. Birdsong and the chatter of children have replaced the loud clang and clatter of heavy industry.

Read full article Steel: Lessons of Ravenscraig loom over Port Talbot