Wednesday 29 September 2021 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Wednesday. 29/9/2021

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Alexis Self

Coming up short

For as long as I can remember, the UK’s treatment of its immigrant population has resembled a budget airline’s disregard of its customers: namely, they need us more than we need them. Yet, because of the country’s vast service-based economy and large university-educated population, there is a surfeit of less-skilled, lower-paid jobs in hospitality, manufacturing and agriculture.

When the UK was a member of the EU, relatively high wages brought millions of working-age immigrants to the country from all over the bloc who, as well as doing jobs that many Britons find unpalatable, contributed more than their fair share in taxes. For their troubles, they were rewarded with state-endorsed xenophobia made manifest through the government’s “hostile environment” policy, launched by the Conservatives in 2012.

During the Brexit referendum in 2016, anti-immigrant sentiment became the fuel for Vote Leave’s successful campaign. Even as the Home Office constructed a foreboding post-Brexit immigration system and harassed both resident and non-resident EU citizens, government rhetoric framed young Europeans as desperate to come and work here.

Today the Office for National Statistics estimates that there are more than a million unfilled vacancies in the UK. On top of a fuel shortage, caused by a dearth of delivery drivers, restaurants and hotels are warning politicians that they might have to close due to a lack of staff and many supermarket shelves are looking rather bare. Beneath the din of the outraged headlines of Brexit-supporting tabloid newspapers, one should be able to hear the cluck of chickens coming home to roost. That is, if there’s anyone still around to rear them.

Image: Shutterstock

Defence / Europe

Continental shift

France and Greece unveiled a major new defence deal yesterday, signalling a French desire to consolidate military ties within the EU. The partnership comes in the wake of a major diplomatic spat caused by the announcement of the AUKUS security arrangement between Australia, the UK and US that led to the cancellation of Canberra’s AU$50bn (€31bn) submarine deal with Paris. The agreement between Greece’s Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Emmanuel Macron (pictured, on right, with Mitsotakis) has the potential to include a similar value of materiel, including up to six warships and three frigates. However, as Mary Fitzgerald, Monocle’s North Africa correspondent, tells Monocle 24’s The Briefing while speaking from Greece, “This is not simply about sales.” Key to the deal is a mutual defence clause. Although the full details of this are yet to be revealed, it calls into question how France might act in support of Greece if tensions with Turkey flare up. “This brings Greece and France closer together, in what we know is a more intensely geopolitical space around the Mediterranean in recent years,” says Fitzgerald.

Image: Refik Anadol Studio for Sotheby’s

Art / Hong Kong

Reality check

The inaugural Digital Art Fair Asia, the continent’s first physical exhibition of entirely digital artwork, opens in Hong Kong tomorrow and will run until 17 October. Featuring more than 40 contemporary artists from around the world, it is taking place in a new two-storey building in the city’s Central district, which until recently housed Topshop’s flagship Hong Kong outlet. Works include those made using augmented reality and digital manipulation.

One such piece by Turkish artist Refik Anadol (pictured) occupies an entire room – floors and ceiling included. Also on display are smaller works that make use of less esoteric digital media, such as photography and animation. Visitors wearing VR headsets can pass through a gallery of art in a “virtual museum” as well as a new media section showcasing up-and-coming audio and visual artists. Even though the medium here is focused on digital art, the physical nature of the exhibition suggests that collectors and visitors are still hankering after the human touch.

Image: Shutterstock

Geopolitics / North Korea & South Korea

Opening salvo

North Korea preceded its ambassador’s speech to the UN General Assembly earlier this week by conducting another short-range missile test. South Korea’s military said that Pyongyang had fired what it called an “unidentified projectile” into the Sea of Japan just minutes before North Korean ambassador Kim Song told the UN that no one could deny the hermit nation’s right to self-defence. He added that the North’s nuclear weapons were the only thing protecting his country from invasion.

Japan’s defence ministry has said the test could have been of another ballistic missile, which are banned under international sanctions. Song added that Pyongyang would continue its defiance unless the US was willing to put an end to its regular joint military exercises with South Korea. Despite recent remarks from Kim Jong-Un’s sister that Pyongyang was ready to listen to Seoul’s proposal to formally declare an end to the more than 70-year Korean War, these latest tests suggest that the two sides are a long way from rapprochement.

Image: Getty Images

Aviation / France

The good flight

French aerospace giant Airbus recently announced plans to introduce hydrogen-powered planes by 2035. With the aviation industry setting itself a targets to reduce carbon emissions, this kind of technological undertaking is more than just a mere flight of fancy. The benefits of replacing kerosene with hydrogen are many but such innovation requires Airbus to overcome significant challenges and its viability within the timeframe has been questioned. One such naysayer is, perhaps unsurprisingly, Airbus rival Boeing. On Monday, the US company showcased its own toolkit: new drag-reduction techniques, recycled cabin sidewalls and the expansion of sustainable aviation fuel, a form of emission-reduction technology that it plans to use on all Boeing aircraft by 2030. With the world’s largest aerospace companies approaching the same problem in markedly different ways, it will be interesting to track which ones take off and which remain grounded.

Image: Cordi Talabra

M24 / Tall Stories

Ken Soble Tower, Hamilton

We speak to the team behind the renewal of Ken Soble Tower in Hamilton, Ontario, to see how it exemplifies the way both a building and its residents can benefit by ageing in place.

Monocle Films / Japan

Japanese food trucks

These design-forward restaurants on wheels are more than just lunch-hour catering for Tokyo’s hardworking crowds. We visit the talented chefs, as well as a technology start-up kicking the “kitchen car” scene into gear.


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