The Monocle Minute

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Today’s top stories, opinion and opportunities
Wednesday 4 January 2017

Image: Getty Images

Love hurts

Europeans still love the European Union. OK, maybe love is too strong a word but they certainly still prefer it to the alternative. A poll of 13 nations in the EU has shown that if a referendum was held today the majority of voters would opt to remain. Ireland’s support was the highest at 80 per cent, with Greece and the UK the lowest at 54 per cent. Germany and France, two nations where anti-EU parties hope to make gains at elections this year, were respectively 75 and 68 per cent in favour of remaining. The rise of populists across Europe has spooked pro-Europeans but the groundswell of goodwill towards the union is stronger than many had thought. The challenge for the EU’s leaders in 2017 is ensuring that this affection for the union isn’t squandered. The EU needs to remind its members what its purpose is, why it matters and how it can improve their lives. If 2016 taught us anything it’s that values have to be fought for.

Image: Reuters

State of play

Ricardo Rosselló was sworn in as Puerto Rico’s governor on Monday, marking a new hope for the economically weak Caribbean island. In his inaugural speech he committed to holding a referendum on statehood, an issue that has been brewing since Puerto Rico became an unincorporated territory of the US in 1898. While Puerto Ricans are considered US citizens they do not pay federal taxes nor have the right to vote in presidential elections – one of numerous reasons why about 58 per cent of Puerto Ricans have moved to the US mainland. Statehood would enable the territory to file for bankruptcy – an attractive factor considering that the country is struggling with a public debt of $70bn (€67bn). The last (nonbinding) referendum held in 2012 suggested that 61 per cent were in favour of statehood. Whether Puerto Rico can become the 51st US state now lies in the hands of Rosselló and the US government, which has the final call.

Image: Christian Charisius/Getty Images

Trading standards

After a year that saw forces opposed to international trade gain momentum in the US and across Europe, China kicked off 2017 on a hearteningly cosmopolitan note. On New Year’s Day a freight train loaded with consumer goods departed Yiwu in the eastern Zhejiang province bound for Barking Rail Freight Terminal in east London. Faster than shipping and cheaper than flying, the new train route is part of president Xi Jinping’s New Silk Road plan to boost trade between China and Europe. The UK is bound to welcome the development: with the resignation of its ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, yesterday, the UK has lost one of its most experienced diplomats ahead of formal Brexit negotiations, which are scheduled to begin in March. It’s going to need all the trade partners it can get.

Image: Alamy

Making house

The UK government has plenty of social issues to deal with this year, with one of the biggest being the national housing shortage. Prime minister Theresa May kicked off 2017 with an announcement to develop a series of garden villages and towns across the nation to ease the crisis, which, when combined with seven garden towns already announced, will allow for the construction of about 200,000 new homes from Somerset to Cornwall. Bolstered by more than £6m (€7m) in government funding, there’s a big opportunity here for UK developers, town-planners and architects to establish distinct communities. With a savvy new generation of first-time homebuyers in mind, let’s hope for some innovation in forming liveable and likeable developments that promote the best in rural living, are sensitive to their surroundings and well connected to urban centres.

From Monocle Films

Iceberg hunters

Monocle Films meets the little-known International Ice Patrol that is keeping ships safe as they navigate Atlantic waters.

From Monocle 24

Image: Getty Images

Jo Ellison

Jo Ellison is the fashion editor of the Financial Times and previously the features director at British Vogue. She joins our fashion researcher Jamie Waters to give her sartorial forecast for the year ahead, including menswear and womenswear sharing the catwalk, retail trends around the world and how the shifting political landscape could affect the way we dress.

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