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Opinion Matrix: Future trade talks and climate targets

CONCERN over power in future Brexit trade talks and climate change targets being delivered are just some of the topics discussed in yesterday’s editorials. However, the delay in sanctions on tech companies over online harm was also opened up for debate.

The Guardian

The paper’s editorial looks to Europe and suggests the UK and the EU are not yet speaking the same language on trade deals.

It says: “Size matters in trade talks, as the UK should have learned from the first phase of Brexit. But British Eurosceptics were slow to grasp the challenges faced by a lone member leaving the single market, when the rest of the European Union can negotiate en bloc. Now that the UK is a ‘third country’, the balance of power has shifted further in favour of Brussels. British refusal to adapt is causing bemusement and consternation on the continent. Earlier this week, the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, spoke dismissively of Boris Johnson’s notion of an ‘Australia-style’ deal. She knows this is a euphemism for no deal at all.”

It goes on to say: “The British side sees only intransigence when Brussels is wary of making exceptions and granting privileges to its neighbour. In Boris Johnson’s view, neighbours should do each other favours.”

The Scotsman

In its editorial it asks if the UK’s climate change targets are realistic.

It says: “As if the cost of HS2 was not enough to give pause for thought, consider the implications of the UK government’s climate change ambitions. It has now brought forward a proposed ban on sales of new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars from 2040 to potentially 2032 to hit carbon emission targets – all this ahead of the COP26 summit in Glasgow.

“Once in effect, only electric or hydrogen cars and vans will be for sale. Moving to a wholesale ban in 12 years presumes, not only that millions of motorists will have switched to electric vehicles, but also that the charging infrastructure will be in place across the UK.”

Daily Express

Leo McKinstry uses his column to say Prime Minister Boris Johnson keeps proving his detractors wrong.

He says: “Far from acting like a bumbling clown since entering Downing Street, he has emerged as the bold commander of the ship of state. Only last month he unflinchingly decided to give Chinese telecoms giant Huawei a role in the development of Britain’s 5G broadband network despite ferocious opposition from the US. To Boris, the need to upgrade our national communications mattered more than American sensitivities.

“He has been just as ruthless with personnel, as he showed last autumn when he sacked a score of Tory rebels who defied him over Brexit. In January, he forced out Britain’s climate change envoy Claire O’Neill, the former Tory MP, while the Cabinet reshuffle will provide further evidence of his lack of squeamishness. But his most daring move so far is his decision this week to approve the new HS2 rail link. It was an explosively controversial step, not least because of the potential £107 billion cost of the project. Yet he refused to dither.

“Instead, in perhaps the most eloquent Parliamentary performance of his leadership so far, he explained to the Commons why the project was vital to rebalance the economy, regenerate the neglected regions ­outside the south and expand rail capacity.”

The Times

In its editorial it talks about the government’s delay in looking at new sanctions for tech companies to stop “online harms”. Decisions on sanctions have now been delayed until spring.

The paper says: “This delay is not good enough when the safety of so many is at stake. Ministers must be braver.

“Governments have long been grappling with how to protect vulnerable people online. David Cameron, then prime minister, held a summit on the matter in 2014. Yet progress in making new laws has been painfully slow, and often outpaced by the march of technology. The rule changes now under consideration were first proposed in April last year in a government white paper on online harms. They include a new statutory duty of care on the part of some technology companies towards their users.”

It concludes: “Ministers should not be bullied into letting tech companies shirk responsibility for the darker forces that lurk on their platforms.”

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