(Joyce) #1


10 Friday, November 27, 2020


ritain defended yester-
day its planned cuts to its
overseas aid budget after
an outpouring of protests that it
marks a life-threatening retreat
on the government’s ambitions
to play a global role after Brexit.
Breaking an election manifes-
to promise, Prime Minister Boris
Johnson’s Conservative gov-
ernment says it needs to slash
spending on aid because of the
coronavirus pandemic.
The coronavirus causes the
Covid-19 respiratory disease.
However, critics pointed out
that the Treasury was releas-
ing billions elsewhere for other
priorities, including military
spending, even as it pleads pan-
demic poverty in the budget
One junior minister in the
Foreign Offi ce quit her post in
Foreign Secretary Dominic
Raab insisted the cut was tem-
porary, given the economic cri-
sis brought on by Covid-19, and
vowed no retreat in UK leader-
ship across aid priorities such as
girls’ education, famine relief,
and preventative health pro-
“Even in the toughest eco-
nomic times, we will continue
that mission, we will continue to
lead,” he told parliament.
The sum lost for aid is rough-
ly £4bn ($5.3bn) from a £15bn
budget – the same awarded to a
new development fund for the
north of England, where John-
son’s Conservatives won seats at
last year’s election on a promise
to “get Brexit done”.
Mark Sheard, chief executive
of the aid group World Vision
UK, said that the government’s
spending priorities would come

at “the cost of lives” just as it
prepares to take over the G
presidency and host global sum-
mits on climate change and edu-
cation next year.
“The UK’s commitment to
ending poverty worldwide has
always been something of which
we could be rightly proud, but
just when global leadership is
most needed we are stepping
back,” he said.
By cutting aid, the govern-
ment had “relinquished its right
to talk about ‘Global Britain’
leading the world”, he added.
However, Raab underlined
British goals for the G7 and
COP26 climate summit, and
said that 2021 would be “a year
of leadership for Global Britain
as a force for good around the
“We will prioritise measures
to tackle climate change, pro-
tect biodiversity and fi nance
low-carbon and climate-resil-
ient technologies such as solar
and wind in poor and emerging
economies,” he said.
Criticism has come too from
religious leaders, including
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin

Welby, the leader of the world-
wide Anglican church, who
called it “shameful and wrong”,
as well as fi ve former prime min-
Most pertinently for Johnson
ahead of a parliamentary vote
to amend the aid target, sev-
eral Conservatives have broken
ranks to join opposition parties
in vowing to oppose it, point-
ing out that the UK risks falling
foul of Joe Biden’s incoming US
“As President-elect Biden
commits to a new era of Western
leadership, here we are about to
mark the start of our G7 presi-
dency by cutting our overseas
aid budget,” Tobias Ellwood,
chairman of the House of Com-
mons defence committee, told
“Downgrading our soft power
programmes will leave vacuums
in some of the poorest parts of
the world that will further pov-
erty and instability,” the Con-
servative MP said. “It is likely to
see China and Russia extending
their authoritarian infl uence by
taking our place.”
Former international de-

velopment secretary Andrew
Mitchell said the reduction
would be “the cause of 100,
preventable deaths, mainly
among children”.
The government says it is not
rowing back on global commit-
ments as it starts a new chapter
outside the European Union,
pointing in part to its involve-
ment in research and future not-
for-profi t distribution of a vac-
cine against Covid-19.
The aid budget will remain at
a hefty £10bn, ranking highly in
the G7 club of rich nations, of-
fi cials said.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak
told Sky News that Britain is
facing an “economic emergen-
cy” because of the pandemic.
“I don’t think anyone could
characterise our level of sup-
port for the poorest countries as
turning our back,” he added.
Yesterday UK-based develop-
ment NGO network Bond said
that the government seemed
to have forgotten the “bottom
billion” poorest people in the
world, in a bid to redirect its aid
towards “short-term, self-serv-
ing priorities”.

Some aid experts have criti-
cised London’s eff orts to realign
its foreign aid spending more
closely with security, defence
and trade interests – areas high-
lighted by Raab yesterday.
In a letter to the Guard-
ian newspaper on Tuesday, the
heads of 17 aid agencies, green
groups and think-tanks said the
planned headline aid cut would
“fail” the poorest countries who
are “at the frontline of a climate
crisis they did not cause”.
“It has never been more im-
portant that UK aid and climate
fi nance work together to build
resilience in the face of climate
change and the Covid-19 crisis,”
they wrote.
After the initial announce-
ment of the aid reduction on
Wednesday, which the govern-

ment intends to reverse “when
the fi scal situation allows”,
Greenpeace UK’s head of poli-
tics, Rebecca Newsom, said that
the decision would “fundamen-
tally undermine the UK’s cli-
mate leadership”.
“It will hinder poorer coun-
tries’ ability to tackle and adapt
to the climate emergency, and
sour the UK’s diplomatic rela-
tionships in the run-up to the
crucial Glasgow climate confer-
ence next year,” she added in a
Sonam Phuntsho Wangdi of
Bhutan, who chairs the group
of 47 least-developed coun-
tries at UN climate change talks,
tweeted on Tuesday that at a
time poor nations needed sup-
port more than ever, the aid cuts
“take us in the wrong direction”.

‘Global Britain’ defends

foreign aid budget cuts


Raab: We will prioritise measures to tackle climate change, protect
biodiversity and finance low-carbon and climate-resilient
technologies such as solar and wind in poor and emerging

UK’s Johnson picks new chief of staff to lead post-Cummings ‘reset’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appointed
Dan Rosenfield, a business consultant and former
treasury off icial, as his new chief of staff yesterday as
he tries to restore trust in his leadership.
Johnson is reshaping his senior team of advisers fol-
lowing the departure of Dominic Cummings earlier
this month.
Cummings was seen as the driving force behind
Johnson’s strategy on Brexit and most other policies,
and his exit has been billed as a chance for a “reset”
for the British leader.
Rosenfield joins from Hakluyt, a strategic advisory
firm for businesses and investors, where he has been
global head of corporate clients and head of the UK
business since 2016, the government said.
He previously worked at Bank of America as a man-
aging director of investment banking, and spent over

a decade working in the finance ministry where he
served as a senior aide to former finance ministers
Alistair Darling and George Osborne.
Johnson has been heavily criticised for his response
to the coronavirus crisis and a failure to communi-
cate properly with elected members of his ruling
Conservative Party, which has stirred rebellion over
lockdown rules and Brexit policies.
The chief of staff is traditionally the most powerful
political appointment in the prime minister’s off ice.
Though exact responsibilities vary according the
leaders’ preference, the job involves providing stra-
tegic and political advice to help the prime minister
take decisions.
Rosenfield will begin work on December 7 and
off icially take up the chief of staff role on January 1,
Downing Street said.

Danish PM

in tears

after mink

farm visit



enmark’s Prime Minister
Mette Frederiksen broke
down yesterday when
visiting a mink farmer who lost
his herd following the govern-
ment’s order this month to cull
all 17mn mink in the country to
curb the spread of coronavirus.
The coronavirus causes the
Covid-19 respiratory disease.
She has faced opposition calls
to resign and a vote of no-con-
fi dence in parliament after an
order by the government in early
November, which it later admit-
ted was illegal, to cull the coun-
try’s entire mink population.
The order was given after au-
thorities found Covid-19 out-
breaks at hundreds of mink
farms, including a new strain
of the virus, suspected of being
able to compromise the effi cacy
of vaccines.
“We have two generations of
really skilled mink farmers, fa-
ther and son, who in a very, very
short time have had their life’s
work shattered,” Frederiksen
told reporters after a meeting
with a mink farmer and his son at
their farm near Kolding in West-
ern Denmark.
“It has been emotional for
them, and ... sorry. It has for me
too,” Frederiksen said with a wa-
vering voice, pausing for breath
in between words.
The move to cull Denmark’s
entire mink population, one of
the world’s biggest and highly
valued for the quality of its fur,
has left the government reeling
after it admitted that it did not
have the legal basis to order the
culling of healthy mink.
After a tumultuous couple of
weeks since the order was given
on November 4, Agriculture
Minister Mogens Jensen stepped
down last week after an internal
investigation revealed a fl awed
political process.

Prime Minister Frederiksen is
seen after visiting a closed and
empty mink farm near Kolding,


ermany’s plan to seek an
EU-wide ban on ski tour-
ism over the Christmas
holiday season to halt corona-
virus transmissions has struck
a nerve among European peers,
including in neighbouring Aus-
The coronavirus causes the
Covid-19 respiratory disease.
While governments across the
bloc battle to bring down infec-
tion numbers, each has taken
diff erent approaches on the
cherished winter sport season.
Authorities in Bavaria, Ger-
many’s ski region, have spoken
out emphatically for a ban on
holidays on the slopes.
Bavaria’s state premier
Markus Soeder said current in-
fection rates meant “we just
can’t have the classic ski holi-
He has also warned Germans
against simply crossing the
border to hit the slopes in Aus-
tria, as they would face a 10-day
quarantine upon return – even
for day-trips – since the neigh-
bouring country is classed as a
coronavirus risk zone.
Italian Prime Minister
Giuseppe Conte earlier this week
mooted the idea of co-ordinat-
ing with France and Germany for
a “common European protocol”

to halt ski tourism.
He told the talk show Otto e
Mezzo: “It’s not possible to al-
low holidays on the snow, we
can’t aff ord it.”
No further details have so far
emerged, and Conte would also
have to negotiate with Italy’s
powerful regional authorities
before any ban could be imple-
Ski resort operators are bit-
terly opposed, with some warn-
ing that following Merkel’s call
would mean killing off their en-
tire season.
Giovanni Brasso, who runs
Sestriere, a company that man-
ages Via Lattea resort, told AFP
that “we make 45% of our earn-
ings for the entire season during
Christmas holidays”.
“If that’s taken away from us,
we won’t be able to go on.”
French winter sport resorts
are free to open over the Christ-
mas vacation, Prime Minister
Jean Castex said yesterday, but
ski lifts will have to remain shut.
Castex said mountain holi-
days were still on the cards but
downhill skiing was eff ectively
ruled out.
“Naturally, everybody is free
to travel to resorts to enjoy the
clean air of our beautiful moun-
tains, and the shops which will
be open, although bars and res-
taurants won’t be,” Castex told
a news conference. “But all ski
lifts and collective infrastruc-

tures will be closed to the pub-
Cross-country skiing, sled-
ding and snowshoe hikes are
among snow activities that do
not usually require mechanical
France’s winter sport sector
says it generates some €11bn
($13bn) in revenues per year and
employs 120,000 people during
the season.
Vienna has opposed signing
up to a ski holidays ban.

Calling ski tourism “part of
our national identity”, Chancel-
lor Sebastian Kurz has said that
such winter holidays will go on.
What would be ruled out are
apres-ski parties.
Strict distancing rules will
also be ordered to lower trans-
mission risks, offi cials said.
Tourists must keep at least
1m (three feet) apart at all times,
wear masks in cable cars and
gondolas, and bars and restau-
rants will serve drink and food to

seated customers only.
The Austrian ski resort of
Ischgl gained notoriety earlier
this year after it became an early
Covid-19 hotspot and infected
tourists there helped spread the
virus across Europe.
Spain has so far been counting
on opening its ski stations, but
conditions are yet to be defi ned
between regional authorities
and the federal government.
In the Pyrenees, the Catalo-
nia region wants to open its re-
sorts from December 21, the date
when curbs preventing people
from entering or leaving regions
are due to be lifted.
However, some ski operators
are hoping for an even earlier
“At the moment, we are ex-
pecting to open on December 11
... no one told us we can’t open,”
said a spokeswoman for the op-
erator of Baqueira Beret ski re-
sort at Catalonia’s Val d’Aran
Spanish ski resorts welcomed
more than 5.6mn tourists during
the 2018-2019 season, said the
national association of ski op-
erators Atudem.
Bulgaria has no plans to cancel
ski holidays in the country, with
all three major resorts – Bansko,
Pamporovo and Borovets – to
open in December.
“There is no reason to cancel
the ski season. It’s not the sport
but the apres-ski parties that

sparked the spread of Covid-
in Europe,” said Ivan Obreikov,
spokesman for Ulen, a company
operating ski lifts and gondolas
in Bansko.
Restaurants across the coun-
try are shut at the moment up to
December 21.
But hotels and holiday homes
are open for business.
A decision on whether to open
the stations over Christmas on
Slovenia’s Julian Alps are pend-
An ongoing ban on public
transport at the moment applies
to cable cars.
Nevertheless, most ski re-
sorts have begun preparing their
courses with artifi cial snow in
the hopes that by December,
they’d get the go-ahead to let
tourists in.
The economy ministry said
it was expecting the European
Commission to make a recom-
mendation to member states.
Brussels however fl ung the
ball back to the courts of indi-
vidual governments.
“The fi rst thing to know is
that the decision whether or
not to allow skiing is, of course,
a national competence. This is
not European competence,” said
commission spokesman Stefan
de Keersmaecker. “Obviously,
there is no one-size-fi ts-all ap-
proach to gradual and science-
based and eff ective lifting of the
containment measures.”

Storm over call for EU ski tourism ban


Skiers sit on a ski lift before hitting the slopes during the first snows
of the season above the ski resort of Verbier in the Swiss Alps on
November 15.


highly contagious and
deadly form of avian infl u-
enza is spreading rapidly
in Europe, putting the poultry
industry on alert with previous
outbreaks in mind that saw tens
of millions of birds culled and
signifi cant economic losses.
The disease, commonly called
bird fl u, has been found in France,
the Netherlands, Germany, Brit-

ain, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland,
Sweden and, for the fi rst time
this week in Croatia, Slovenia
and Poland, after severely hitting
Russia, Kazakhstan and Israel.
The vast majority of cases are
in migrating wild birds but out-
breaks have been reported on
farms, leading to the death or
culling of at least 1.6mn chick-
ens and ducks so far around the
In the Netherlands, Europe’s
largest exporter of chicken meat
and eggs, nearly 500,000 chick-

ens died or were culled due to
the virus this autumn, and over
900,000 hens died on one sin-
gle farm in Poland this week, the
countries’ ministries said.
“The risk of a transfer in poul-
try farms and more cases among
wild birds is higher than in the
past two years because of the
massive appearance of various
bird fl u viruses in Europe,” said a
spokeswoman for the Friedrich-
Loeffl er Institute, Germany’s
federal animal disease research

Russia’s poultry death toll
reached 1.8mn by the end of Oc-
tober, with nearly 1.6mn of that
on one farm near Kazakhstan,
data by the World Organisation
for Animal Health (OIE) showed.
The main strain found this year
in Europe is H5N8, which deci-
mated fl ocks in 2016/17 when the
region recorded its largest out-
break in poultry and wild birds,
but there were also reports of
H5N5 and H5N1.
Although the risk to humans
is low, the European Food Safety

Agency (EFSA) said this week
that the virus’ evolution needed
to be closely monitored.
A strain of H5N1 has been
known to spread to humans.
EU poultry industry play-
ers said they are very concerned
about the latest outbreak but
were now experienced in dealing
with them.
“We have worked so hard to
improve safety, to train breeders
and improve traceability that we
hope that if there are cases we
will manage to contain them,”

said Anne Richard, head of
France’s poultry industry lobby
Most counties have raised their
alert status to “high”, implying
that poultry and birds be kept
indoors or protected in order to
avoid contact with wild birds.
Bird fl u outbreaks like other
animal diseases often prompt
importing countries to impose
trade restrictions.
That will add to coronavirus-
related lockdowns threatening to
curb year-end holiday sales.

“It’s already diffi cult to export
with the Covid-19 pandemic ...
this would make it even worse,”
Denis Lambert, chief executive
of France’s largest poultry group
LDC said on Wednesday.
However, importing countries’
approach to limit restrictions
to regions aff ected by the virus
should help soften the impact.
China, for example, has sus-
pended imports of poultry prod-
ucts from four regions in Russia
due to bird fl u, Tass news agency
reported on Wednesday.

Fast spreading avian infl uenza puts EU poultry industry on the edge


Museum project to

record Londoners’

Covid-19 dreams

The Museum of London has
announced a project to collect
the dreams of Londoners during
the coronavirus (Covid-19)
pandemic as a way to document
the impact of the crisis.
The lives of inhabitants of the
British capital have changed “not
just in the day to day” because
of the pandemic, but also “in
relation to how we sleep and
dream”, the museum said.
The project, dubbed “Guardians
of Sleep”, will look to collect
the dreams in the form of oral
It will also explore what insight
dreams might off er into mental
health and ways of coping with
external stresses, especially in
times of crisis.
The Museum of London is
launching the initiative in
partnership with the Museum
of Dreams based at Western
University in Canada.

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