Tuesday 25 October 2022 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Tuesday. 25/10/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Shutterstock

Opinion / Alexis Self

All change

They say that a week is a long time in politics. In the UK at the moment, four days are epochal. Last Thursday, Liz Truss was the country’s fledgling leader; yesterday, after a truncated race, Rishi Sunak (pictured) was named the next prime minister. It is difficult to predict how successful Sunak will be but he is undoubtedly an improvement on his predecessor (Truss made a lettuce seem charismatic).

Sunak’s time as chancellor is seen as having been largely successful and his experience should calm the markets. He is immensely wealthy – the richest member of parliament, even if most of it belongs to his wife. Many see this as an electoral liability but others believe that his personal success enhances his economic credibility. Either way, there will be no honeymoon period. The UK is roiling from multiple crises, with its crumbling economy and the effect that this is having on vulnerable people the most pressing.

Though the pandemic and war in Ukraine have played large parts in the country’s high inflation and low growth, Brexit is the festering wound that shows no signs of healing. While comparable economies can at least see a way out of the current predicament, the UK has intentionally put up barriers to trade with its closest partners and failed to win any significant post-Brexit advantages. Renegotiating with the EU must be a priority for Sunak.

In a way, he might be well placed to do this. He lacks the mendacity that hamstrung Boris Johnson’s relations with Brussels and, as a steadfast Brexiteer, can’t be labelled as a crypto-Remainer. But it would be optimistic to imagine that the Conservatives will be able to put aside the rancour that has threatened to tear the party apart over the past few weeks. Slick Sunak might have bought them two more years in office but it’s difficult to see a Conservative victory in the next election.

Alexis Self is Monocle’s foreign editor. For more on this story, tune in to Monocle 24’s ‘The Globalist’.

Image: Getty Images

Conflict / Ethiopia

At cross purposes

Representatives of the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) began negotiations yesterday in an effort to find a peaceful resolution to their devastating civil war. Convened by the African Union, the negotiations, being held in South Africa, are the first major peace talks since the war began two years ago.

“The conflict has brought untold suffering,” Addis Ababa-based journalist Samuel Getachew tells The Monocle Minute. “Thousands have died, millions are displaced and the nation’s once-booming economy is in tatters.” Diplomatic pressure to end hostilities has risen in recent months but whether these talks will result in a breakthrough remains to be seen. “Both sides have put a poison pill into the discussions,” says Getachew. “Ethiopia wants to see the TPLF disarmed, which won’t happen, and the TPLF wants the eviction of Eritrean troops from Tigray, which also will not happen.”

Image: Getty Images

Mining / France

Leading the charge

Mining giant Imerys announced on Monday its intention to begin the extraction of a huge lithium deposit in France’s central Allier department. Lithium, the world’s lightest metal, is used in the manufacture of ion batteries for electric vehicles and so is regarded as crucial to the transition away from fossil fuels. The enormous value of the Allier deposit, estimated to be one of Europe’s largest, became clear after 18 months of underground drilling; Imerys has committed to investing €1bn in the project over 25 years.

The EU has pledged to phase out carbon-emitting cars by 2035, an honourable yet far from straightforward ambition. The bloc has many ion-battery-making facilities but is in urgent need of more raw materials, including lithium. The EU has identified finding alternative sources of the metal as integral to loosening its economic dependence on China, which currently dominates its global supply chain. This is particularly important as tensions rise due to Beijing’s increasingly autocratic turn and its actions in Xinjiang, which the US and others have declared a genocide.

Image: Orgatec/Koelnmesse GmbH, Harald Fleissner

Design / Germany

Working wonders

Orgatec, the world’s biggest trade fair devoted to workplace furniture, kicks off today in Köln, four years after it was last hosted in the halls of Koelnmesse. While the office might have changed considerably since 2018, the fact that more than 600 brands will present their wares at the fair, hosting talks and symposiums in an area the size of 22 football fields, shows that there’s still an appetite for a well-fitted-out working environment.

“Instead of presenting abstract visions of the future, we’ll show how direct communication and creative collaboration can thrive,” Michael Zgoll, managing director of his namesake video-conferencing firm, tells The Monocle Minute. This year visitors, designers and business owners can expect advice on how to create spaces that are both inspiring and practical, and might even help to entice the most ardent work-from-home employees to return.

Environment / Brazil

Untold stories

London-based quarterly magazine Where the Leaves Fall explores the connection between people and the environment. Young Brazilian indigenous activist Txai Suruí is guest editor of its 12th issue. Luciane Pisani, co-founder of the magazine, tells Monocle 24’s The Stack that the collaboration seeks to introduce a much-needed indigenous perspective to Brazil’s environmental debate. “These stories haven’t been told and we wanted to change that,” she says.

The issue is published a week before the conclusion of a divisive presidential election in which the two remaining candidates, Jair Bolsonaro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, have starkly divergent positions on the environment: the former wants to increase logging and mining, while the latter is opposed. Suruí says that a victory for Bolsonaro will mean “the end of the Amazon” but she also points out the progress that indigenous communities have made in Brazil, with a record number elected to Congress in the first round of voting on 2 October.

To hear the full conversation with Pisani and Suruí, tune in to this week’s episode of ‘The Stack’

Monocle 24 / The Entrepreneurs

Dr Ewan Kirk

Best known for founding science-driven investment management firm Cantab Capital Partners, Ewan Kirk was previously a partner and head of the quantitative strategies group at Goldman Sachs, where he led a 120-strong European team of mathematicians, scientists and statisticians. He tells us why he advocates for commercialising and leveraging technology and science research in business, philanthropy and academia.

Monocle Films / Greece

Keeping the faith

In this digital age, do we need more forgiveness and sacrifice in our lives? And where can we look for direction? Monocle Films sits down with Archbishop Elpidophoros of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America to find out how the church strives to address contemporary needs and remain relevant.


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