Thursday. 2/7/2020

The Monocle Minute

Opinion / Ed Stocker

Opportunity lost

The UK’s painful extraction from the EU continued this week – and could hinder its competitiveness in more ways than one. Yesterday the UK published its Research and Development Roadmap for science, research and innovation. But the recently announced decision to raise university fees for EU students from next September will likely have an equally important impact on its global research clout. The fees are set to rise from the current “home student” rate of up to £9,250 (€10,210) per year to the “foreign student” rate of anywhere from £10,000 (€11,040) to £38,000 (€41,945).

“Mobile students are a source of research talent,” explains Thomas Jørgensen, senior policy co-ordinator at the European University Association. “So you narrow the pipeline.” And there’s another element to this: while it’s true that British universities will continue to welcome Europeans – and Asian students’ enthusiasm for studying abroad looks unlikely to change – the country might have played its hand too early when it comes to negotiating a new trade deal with the EU. “I would have thought this would have been a good bargaining chip,” says Jørgensen.

If one were trying to be positive, one could make the argument that the government’s motivations are potentially admirable. In a new world in which it is no longer a member of the European bloc, why not treat all overseas students the same way instead of making special allowances? But the reality is that it seems more like a desire to abandon the European project in every sense – and doesn’t bode well for the future. In the long term, it could also end up being a colossal self-inflicted wound.

Elections / Russia

Absolute power

Russians have been voting over the past week – the ballots closed yesterday – as the country seeks to enact the most significant amendments to its constitution in 27 years. Many of the proposed reforms are procedural but the most consequential one would allow president Vladimir Putin (pictured), who first took office in 1999, to stay in power until 2036. Anyone who was hoping that ordinary Russians would be allowed to reject Putin’s coronation should probably avoid Moscow’s bookshops, where the newly amended constitution was reportedly already on sale before the results were announced. “He will be in the Kremlin until his seventies and possibly even his early eighties,” Luke Harding, author of Shadow State: Murder, Mayhem and Russia’s Remaking of the West, told Monocle 24’s The Briefing. “He’s actually a dictator, there is no other word for it. Political opposition in Russia has been squashed over the past two decades, quite systematically.”

Trade / Mexico

Product protection

“Protected Designation of Origin” and “Protected Geographical Indication” have long been familiar terms to global trade negotiators, safeguarding the heritage of food and drink products such as champagne and parmesan. But are we about to see such designations stretched to cultural objects too? In April, trade negotiations between the EU and Mexico led to more than 20 times more European agricultural products being protected in Mexico than the other way around.

To balance matters with the EU’s largest trade partner in Latin America, a number of non-food products, including sombreros, amber and pottery, have now been provisionally added to the list. Protected items are worth on average double the value of similar uncertified items, meaning that this listing has the potential to provide a financial boost to tradespeople and artisans. It’s also expected to help preserve heritage and tradition in local communities, a less tangible but arguably just as important benefit.

Retail / Germany

Active market

Sportswear players such as Lululemon, Puma and China’s Li-Ning have recently seen their share prices rise above pre-pandemic levels. Which makes sense: many of us are spending money on athleisure wear, a new bike or hiking kit for camping trips closer to home. The prospects for athletic brands were discussed in detail over the past two days at the digital edition of Ispo, the world’s leading sports trade fair. Usually held in Munich, this year Ispo consisted of online panel talks and keynotes with industry leaders on topics including the future of sports retail, how to emerge from the pandemic stronger (hint: omnichannel is the answer) and the next steps for corporate social responsibility. The overall tone was optimistic, with CEOs explaining how the pandemic had forced them to embrace new ways of delivering orders and interacting with customers, including via Whatsapp and video calls. It seems the sector will be ready to hit the ground running for the second half of 2020.

Arts / New Zealand

Gallery gains

Many museums and galleries around the world are still in the tentative stages of reopening but in New Zealand art lovers have had the privilege of heading to exhibitions for a few weeks now, as their nation managed to contain the outbreak much better than others. Despite the inevitable economic losses that the country’s strict lockdown measures caused, gallerists here are in a good position for the future. Not only did their lean business models help them weather financial difficulties but a growing interest in Pasifika, Maori and Indigenous art is fuelling the success of galleries in the region – and the success of New Zealand’s artist diaspora abroad is being felt back home too. With a domestic market keen to support its own creatives, galleries in Auckland might be set to benefit: find out more in Monocle’s July/August issue, on newsstands now.

M24 / The Menu

Food Neighbourhoods 191: Recipe edition, Olia Hercules

Olia Hercules, the author of the new book ‘Summer Kitchens’, shares one of her favourite recipes from Ukraine.

Monocle Films / Global

Monocle preview: July/August issue, 2020

Monocle’s city-themed summer double issue celebrates all that’s great about our urban centres. From the people and projects making our cities better places to the shops that bring communities together, we’re here to prove that being at the beating heart of a metropolis is still the best way to live. Plus: why camper vans are making a comeback. Available now at The Monocle Shop

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