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‘Shocking and horrifying’: Israel destroys AP office in Gaza Qatar Benjamin Netanyahu Joe Biden Hamas White House

‘Shocking and horrifying’: Israel destroys AP office in Gaza Qatar Benjamin Netanyahu Joe Biden Hamas White House
‘Shocking and horrifying’: Israel destroys AP office in Gaza Qatar Benjamin Netanyahu Joe Biden Hamas White House


An Israeli airstrike on Saturday destroyed a high-rise building that housed The Associated Press office in the Gaza Strip, despite repeated urgent calls from the news agency to the military to halt the impending attack. AP called the strike “shocking and horrifying.”

Twelve AP staffers and freelancers were working and resting in the bureau on Saturday afternoon when the Israeli military telephoned a warning, giving occupants of the building one hour to evacuate. Everyone was able to get out, grabbing a few belongings, before three heavy missiles struck the 12-story building, collapsing it into a giant cloud of dust.

Although no one was hurt, the airstrike demolished an office that was like a second home for AP journalists and marked a new chapter in the already rocky relationship between the Israeli military and the international media. Press-freedom groups condemned the attack. They accused the military, which claimed the building housed Hamas military intelligence, of trying to censor coverage of Israel’s relentless offensive against Hamas militants.

Ahead of the demolition, the AP placed urgent calls to the Israeli military, foreign minister and prime minister’s office but were either ignored or told that there was nothing to be done.

For 15 years, the AP’s top-floor office and roof terrace were a prime location for covering Israel’s conflicts with Gaza’s Hamas rulers, including wars in 2009, 2012 and 2014. The news agency’s camera offered 24-hour live shots as militants’ rockets arched toward Israel and Israeli airstrikes hammered the city and its surrounding area this week.

“We are shocked and horrified that the Israeli military would target and destroy the building housing AP’s bureau and other news organizations in Gaza,” Gary Pruitt, the AP’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “The world will know less about what is happening in Gaza because of what happened today.”

“This is an incredibly disturbing development. We narrowly avoided a terrible loss of life,” he said, adding that the AP was seeking information from the Israeli government and was in touch with the U.S. State Department.

The building housed a number of offices, including those of the Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera. Dozens of residents who lived in apartments on the upper floors were displaced.

A video broadcast by Al-Jazeera showed the building’s owner, Jawwad Mahdi, pleading over the phone with an Israeli intelligence officer to wait 10 minutes to allow journalists to go inside the building to retrieve valuable equipment before it is bombed.

“All I’m asking is to let four people … to go inside and get their cameras,” he said. “We respect your wishes, we will not do it if you don’t allow it, but give us 10 minutes.” When the officer rejected the request, Mahdi said, “You have destroyed our life’s work, memories, life. I will hang up, do what you want. There is a God

Late Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the building was used by Hamas military intelligence. “It was not an innocent building,” he said.

Israel routinely cites a Hamas presence as a reason for targeting buildings. It also accused the group of using journalists as human shields.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, a military spokesman, refused to provide evidence backing up the army’s claims, saying it would compromise intelligence efforts. “I think it’s a legitimate request to see more information, and I will try to provide it,” he said.

Conricus said the army is “committed both to journalists, their safety and to their free work.”

For AP journalists, it was a difficult moment. Most of the AP staff has been sleeping in the bureau, which includes four bedrooms in an upstairs apartment, throughout the current round of fighting, believing that the offices of an international news agency were one of the few safe places in Gaza. In a territory crippled by an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, it was equipped with a generator that offered the rare comforts of electricity, air conditioning and running water.

AP correspondent Fares Akram said he was resting in an upstairs room when he heard panicked screams from colleagues about the evacuation order. Staffers hastily gathered basic equipment, including laptops and cameras before fleeing downstairs.

“I am heartbroken,” Akram said. “You feel like you are at home. Above all, you have your memories, your friends. You spend most of your time there.”

Al-Jazeera, the news network funded by Qatar’s government, broadcast the airstrikes live as the building collapsed.

“This channel will not be silenced. Al-Jazeera will not be silenced,” Halla Mohieddeen. on-air anchorperson for Al-Jazeera English said, her voice thick with emotion. “We can guarantee you that right now.”

Later in the day, President Joe Biden spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the spiraling violence.

“He raised concerns about the safety and security of journalists and reinforced the need to ensure their protection,” the White House said.

The Foreign Press Association, which represents some 400 journalists working for international media organizations in Israel and the Palestinian territories, expressed its “grave concern and dismay” over the attack.

“Knowingly causing the destruction of the offices of some of the world’s largest and most influential news organizations raises deeply worrying questions about Israel’s willingness to interfere with the freedom of the press,” it said. “The safety of other news bureaus in Gaza is now in question.”

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said the attack raises concerns that Israel is targeting the media “to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza.” He demanded “detailed and documented justification” for the attack.

The International Press Institute, a global network of journalists and media executives, condemned the attack as a “gross violation of human rights and internationally agreed norms.”

The Israeli military has long had rocky relations with the foreign media, accusing international journalists of being biased against it.

The attack came a day after the Israeli military had fed vague — and in some cases erroneous — information to the media about a possible ground incursion into Gaza. It turned out that there was no ground invasion, and the statement was part of an elaborate ruse aimed at tricking Hamas militants into defensive underground positions that were then destroyed in Israeli airstrikes.

International journalists have accused the army of duping them and turning them into accessories for a military operation. The army said the error was an honest mistake.



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US, EU, Britain and Canada agree sanctions on Belarus

US, EU, Britain and Canada agree sanctions on Belarus
US, EU, Britain and Canada agree sanctions on Belarus



The United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada joined forces Monday to impose sanctions on several senior officials in Belarus over the forced diversion to Minsk of a passenger plane travelling between two EU countries last month.

Asset freezes and travel bans were also imposed on a number of officials linked to the security crackdown that continues to rock the country some 10 months after President Alexander Lukashenko was returned to power in elections branded by the EU and others as “fraudulent.”

“We are united in our deep concern regarding the Lukashenko regime’s continuing attacks on human rights, fundamental freedoms, and international law,” the four said in a joint statement.

“We are committed to support the long-suppressed democratic aspirations of the people of Belarus and we stand together to impose costs on the regime for its blatant disregard of international commitments,” they said.

The EU hit seven people and one entity over the “forced and unlawful” landing of the Ryanair plane, which was traveling from Greece to Lithuania when it was ordered to stop in Minsk, where authorities arrested Raman Pratasevich, a dissident journalist who was one of the passengers.

The four called on Minsk to cooperate with an international probe into the incident, immediately release all political prisoners, and “enter into a comprehensive and genuine political dialogue” with the democratic opposition and civil society.

Among those targeted by the United States were close Lukashenko associates, those accused of helping to violently suppress peaceful protests since last year and others alleged to have orchestrated fraud during the elections.

At a meeting in Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers also prepared a series of economic measures that are aimed at hitting Lukashenko and his allies. EU leaders are expected to endorse them at a summit in Brussels on Thursday.

The EU has gradually ratcheted up sanctions since Lukashenko – dubbed the last dictator in Europe – won a sixth term last August.

But the 27-nation bloc has taken a harder approach since the Ryanair incident, and over the country’s alleged use of migrants to pressure neighboring Lithuania, which has provided a safe-haven to Belarusian opposition figures and is one of Lukashenko’s most vocal critics.

Among their actions Monday, the ministers imposed travel bans and asset freezes on 78 Belarus officials and froze the assets of 8 “entities,” which are usually companies, banks, or associations. It means that a total of 166 people and 15 entities are now under EU restrictive measures.

“This decision was made in view of the escalation of serious human rights violations in Belarus and the violent repression of civil society, democratic opposition and journalists,” a statement said.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who chaired the meeting, said the economic sanctions “are going to hurt … the economy of Belarus heavily.”

The measures are likely to include action against the export of potash – a common fertilizer ingredient – tobacco industry exports and petroleum products, among others.

“We will no longer just sanction individuals. We will now also impose sectoral sanctions – meaning that we will now get to work on the economic areas that are of particular significance for Belarus and for the regime’s income,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

“We want to make very, very clear to Lukashenko that there is no going back,” Maas said.

Maas said the 27 EU countries stand united on sanctions “We are really very, very determined not to budge, not just today – nothing about this will change in the coming weeks and months,” he said.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said EU countries had thought only a month ago that it still might be possible to reason with Lukashenko but that “the mood is different now.”

Landsbergis accused Minsk of “weaponizing” migration flows. He said around 500 people are sheltering in Lithuania, most from Iraq, and that Belarus border guards brought 30 refugees to the border in recent days. He said Lithuania has limited capacity for them and is building a tent camp.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the main opposition challenger who fled Belarus after the vote, welcomed the new measures, saying that “the EU and the entire civilized world have set a goal to stop Lukashenko and the escalation of violence.”

“The EU sanctions would raise not only external, but also internal pressure on Lukashenko … and will make it more costly for his main sponsor, the Kremlin, to maintain the Belarusian regime,” she said.

Tsikhanouskaya said the Ryanair incident shows that “Lukashenko’s regime has become a threat not only to citizens of Belarus but also to international security.”

Associated Press



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Fed’s Williams says US economy does not yet justify policy shift

Fed’s Williams says US economy does not yet justify policy shift
Fed’s Williams says US economy does not yet justify policy shift


A senior Federal Reserve official said the US economy was not yet ready for the central bank to start pulling back its hefty monetary support, even though the outlook has become rosier.

The comments from John Williams, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, were delivered on Monday amid high sensitivity in financial markets to Fed policy. Economic projections by central bank officials last week signalled they expect to increase interest rates in 2023, a year earlier than previously indicated.

Williams said the economy was “getting better all the time”, in some of his most bullish remarks since the pandemic started. But he insisted the Fed would stick to the terms of its monetary policy framework, introduced last August, which sets a high bar for tightening policy.

“It’s clear that the economy is improving at a rapid rate, and the medium-term outlook is very good,” he said.

“But the data and conditions have not progressed enough for the Federal Open Market Committee to shift its monetary policy stance of strong support for the economic recovery.”

The comments came ahead of Jay Powell’s scheduled testimony in Congress on Tuesday. In the Fed chair’s prepared remarks, released late on Monday, Powell pointed to “sustained improvement” in the economy but highlighted the “uneven” pace of the recovery in the labour market and lingering risks from the pandemic, including the slowdown in the rate of US vaccinations.

The Fed chair added that “inflation is expected to drop back toward our longer-run goal”, reiterating his view that the current surge in consumer prices will be transitory.

Both Powell’s prepared testimony and Williams’ remarks suggest the top brass at the Fed are more cautious on the prospect of a quick policy change compared to those of some of the other regional bank presidents who have made comments after last week’s FOMC meeting.

Speaking to CNBC on Friday, James Bullard, the president of the St Louis Fed, suggested the central bank might be ready to increase interest rates as early as next year, sparking a sharp sell-off in US stocks.

Williams told an event hosted by the Midsize Bank Coalition of America that interest rates would not be raised until full employment was reached and inflation had risen to 2 per cent and was “on track” to exceed that target moderately for some time.

He also said that any tapering of the Fed’s $120bn monthly asset purchases would not take place until “substantial further progress” had been made on those fronts.

And later, in response to questions from reporters after the event, he said there were both upside and downside risks to employment and the Fed’s inflation 2 per cent target. “It’s still a very uncertain outlook and we have to take that into account in how we think about policy decisions going forward,” he said.

On Monday, at an event hosted by Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum, a think-tank, Bullard reiterated the need for the Fed to begin considering scaling back its bond purchases in the face of higher inflation. 

Robert Kaplan, Dallas Fed chair, struck a similar tone at the same event.

“It would be healthier as we are making progress in weathering the pandemic and achieving our goals to start adjusting these purchases — Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities — sooner rather than later,” Kaplan said.



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The farmers burning their own crops to fight a mouse plague

The farmers burning their own crops to fight a mouse plague
The farmers burning their own crops to fight a mouse plague



Colin Tink, 63, has been farming all his life and has never experienced a mouse plague like the one ravaging Australia‘s eastern grain belt. Nor a drought like the one that preceded it, which turned fertile crop areas into dust bowls.

When the rains finally came last year, Mr Tink thought his fortunes were changing.

The rain led to bumper crops through the spring and summer months (September to March in the Southern Hemisphere). Silos are overflowing with grain. And barns are piled high with hay. Mr Tink grew enough hay to feed his cattle for two years.

Then the mice arrived. Thousands of them.

The vermin burrow deep into his hay. What they don’t eat is ruined anyway as their urine trickles down through the bales. The smell is acrid. It sticks in your nose and lingers on your clothes.

“It breaks your heart a bit,” Mr Tink said. “We’re back to square one.”



When I wake up in the morning I am talking about mice and then when I go to bed I am still talking about mice

Not one to give up, Mr Tink recently fashioned a giant mouse trap out of a shipping container he uses to roll out grain for his cattle. He lures mice into the container by scattering grain on the floor.

Then, Mr Tink, or his five-year-old grandson, Jock, sweep the mice with a broom toward a pool of water positioned at the open end of the container. The rodents hurtle into the water. Trapped by a thin layer of dishwashing liquid, they quickly drown.

On the first evening, they caught 7,000 mice. The next night it was 3,000. Now, they’re averaging about 1,000 a night.

“We won’t beat ’em but we might slow them down a bit,” Mr Tink said.

Australia suffers a mouse plague every decade or so. Some older farmers recall an infestation during the 1970s in which the ground felt as if it was moving, it was so thick with mice.

Approximately 7000 mice, caught using a homemade water trap by Colin Tink, lie in a field near Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia on 24 May 2021

(Matthew Abbott)

One contributing factor is changing farming practices. To maintain moisture in Australia’s arid soil, farmers are sowing new crops directly onto the old stalks that were left in the ground.

That means mice have more places to shelter – and have more food.

The New South Wales government has secured 5,000 litres (1,320 gallons) of a deadly bait called bromadiolone. Scientists worry the poison may inadvertently kill other species – wedge-tailed eagles, owls, snakes and goannas (large lizards) that are feeding on the abundant mouse prey.

The mice also carry viruses that are potentially deadly to humans. Health authorities in Queensland state say the number of cases of leptospirosis – a flu-like illness that can lead to meningitis, kidney failure, bleeding and respiratory complications – have almost doubled in 2021 compared with this time last year.

Dead and drowning mice float in a homemade trap near Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia on 26 May 2021

(Matthew Abbott)

With a shortage of traps, farmers have had to come up with their own systems to catch mice.

They’re crafting makeshift traps out of barrels and buckets. They’re laying down treats to tempt the mice to scuttle to their doom.

Some farmers have enlisted the help of experts like Henry, a government scientist who roams the country advising people on how to deal with the rodents.

In Coonamble, west of Sydney, last month, Henry inspected a 3,000 bale haystack – worth roughly $93,000 (£67,000) at current prices – that had been destroyed by mice. In a drought, the straw would fetch twice that, he said.

Mark Iles, publican at the Royal Hotel, holds a dead mouse in Yoeval, New South Wales, Australia on 28 May 2021

(Matthew Abbott)

“When I wake up in the morning I am talking about mice and then when I go to bed I am still talking about mice,” he said.

At the Royal Hotel in Yeoval, about 200 miles west of Sydney, the publican, Mark Iles, said he was catching mice in his bare hands a few weeks ago as they scampered across his bar.

Greg Younghusband is a 40-year-old farmer near Gilgandra, about 270 miles west of Sydney. In dealing with the infestation, he has had to burn his own crops and set up scores of traps.

One Saturday about a month ago, things got so bad that Mr Younghusband had to send his wife and daughters away to a nearby town for the weekend. The mouse invasion was too much to bear.

Colin Tink, inside his giant homemade mouse trap, pushes mice into a bath to drown the mice near Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia 26 May 2021

(Matthew Abbott)

They were in his shed. They were in the house. They destroyed his washing machine, dryer and two refrigerators. They chewed through his couch, his coffee machine and his daughter’s bed sheets. They were under the oven.

He could hear them in the walls. He also smelled them. The smell of death. Everywhere.

“You can’t get rid of the smell because they die in the walls. They die under the stove,” Mr Younghusband said. “It’s the worst smell you’ve ever smelt. It’s unbelievable.”

He armed himself with 40 traps and between 2pm and 2am he caught 450 mice, before giving up and going to bed. “I’d unload a trap and bait it again and as soon as I turned away it would go off again.”

An agriculture supply shop has completely run out of mouse bait and traps in Wellington, New South Wales, Australia on 28 May 2021

(Matthew Abbott)

One recent evening, Mr Younghusband lit a fire under about 130 hay bales that had been destroyed by mice and stood back to watch, beer in hand, as flames lit up the night sky. He estimates he has lost about 1,500 bales so far.

Normally a mouse plague will end apocalyptically, according to Henry, as the population grows too big to support itself. Riddled with disease and running out of food, the vermin turn on each other, starting with the sickest and weakest.

He worries that if temperatures don’t drop sharply enough over the winter, many will survive the cooler months, setting up for an even more explosive outbreak next spring.

© The Washington Post



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Amal Clooney ensures justice for Yazidi girl, 14, raped while an ISIS slave

Amal Clooney ensures justice for Yazidi girl, 14, raped while an ISIS slave
Amal Clooney ensures justice for Yazidi girl, 14, raped while an ISIS slave


Amal Clooney ensures justice for Yazidi girl, 14, raped while an ISIS slave, with successful prosecution of jihadi bride who oversaw victim’s abuse

  • Clooney represented one of three victims in trial against ISIS bride in Dusseldorf
  • Her client was 1 of 7 Yazidi girls enslaved by defendant named only as Sarah O.
  • Sarah O., 23, who holds Algerian nationality, married ISIS fighter in Syria in 2013
  • She beat the Yazidi slaves and helped to ‘prepare them’ for rape by her husband










Amal Clooney has secured justice for a Yazidi woman who was raped from the age of 14 after being enslaved by ISIS in Syria.

Clooney was representing the woman as one of three victims of an ISIS bride named only as Sarah O, who was jailed for six-and-a-half years in Dusseldorf on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old, who holds Algerian nationality, travelled to Syria as a teenager in 2013 where she married a German-Turkish national named only as Ismail S., who remains at large.

From 2015, the couple started enslaving Yazidi women and girls who were kidnapped by marauding ISIS fighters and sold throughout the ‘caliphate.’

The Yazidi ethnic group, who are mostly based in Iraq, faced genocidal persecution by Islamic State which claims they are a race of ‘devil worshippers.’ 

Amal Clooney ensures justice for Yazidi girl, 14, raped while an ISIS slave

Amal Clooney is pictured at the United Nations Security Council during a meeting about sexual violence in conflict in New York in April, 2019

Over two years, Sarah O. and Ismail S. enslaved seven Yazidi women, some of whom were sold onto others, while another, a 14-year-old girl, died in captivity.

Sarah O. beat the prisoners and helped her husband sexually abuse at least two of the victims, helping to ‘prepare them’ for rape.

She also forced the Yazidis to carry out slave labour at her house.

The couple were arrested in Turkey in February 2018. After seven months in custody, Sarah O. was deported to Germany and her trial began in October 2019.

The proceedings were closed to the public because she was a teenager when some of the events took place. In accordance with German law, her full name has not been released either.

The victim represented by Clooney, along with her German colleagues, Natalie von Wistinghausen and Sonka Mehner, was present in Dusseldorf on Wednesday when judges announced the verdict.

Following the judgment, the victim said: ‘No conviction can make up for our suffering, but I am immensely grateful to the German Federal Prosecutors and the German court for investigating and shedding light on the crimes committed against the Yazidis and I hope that many more countries will follow this good example.’ 

Sarah O. was convicted of membership in a foreign terrorist organisation, assault, deprivation of liberty, aiding and abetting rape, enslavement and religious and gender-based persecution as crimes against humanity. 

Clooney’s German colleague Sonka Mehner said: ‘Thanks to the victims, the full extent of the defendant’s criminal conduct could be established.’ 

George Clooney and his wife Amal Clooney attend the "Money Monster" premiere during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival in 2016

George Clooney and his wife Amal Clooney attend the ‘Money Monster’ premiere during the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival in 2016

The other German attorney representing the Yazidi woman, Natalie von Wistinghausen, added that ‘for the first time ever, a court handed down a conviction for religious and gender-based persecution and this recognition is of utmost importance for our client and for all Yazidi women, for their religious community as a whole, as well as for other victims of gender-based violence.’

Clooney, the 43-year-old wife of Hollywood actor George, is a barrister who specialises in international criminal and human rights law.

She was called to the London Bar in 2010 after being called in New York in 2002.

Fluent in French and Arabic, she has worked in The Hague including at the International Court of Justice.

In addition to her legal work, she served as a senior adviser to Kofi Annan when he was the UN’s Envoy on Syria. 



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Carl Nassib becomes the first active NFL player to come out as gay

Carl Nassib becomes the first active NFL player to come out as gay
Carl Nassib becomes the first active NFL player to come out as gay



Carl Nassib has become the first active NFL player to come out as gay, after he made the announcement in an Instagram video.

“What’s up, people. I’m Carl Nassib. I’m at my house here in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay,” Nassib, a defensive lineman, said in the video.

“I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest.”

Nassib, 28, told his followers that he hoped that people would not have to make similar videos in the future and announced he was donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project, which aims to prevent suicide among LGBTQ+ youths.

“I’m a pretty private person so I hope you guys know that I’m really not doing this for attention. I just think that representation and visibility are so important,” he said.

“I actually hope that like one day, videos like this and the whole coming-out process are just not necessary.

“But until then, I’m going to do my best and do my part to cultivate a culture that’s accepting, that’s compassionate and I’m going to start by donating $100,000 to the Trevor Project.”

In an online written message, Nassib said he had “agonised over this moment for the last 15 years” and decided to go public with the support of his family and friends.

Nassib signed for the Raiders in 2020 on a three-year, $25m free-agent deal, with $16.75m of his money guaranteed.

The team’s official Twitter account posted a black heart symbol and said: “Proud of you, Carl.”

Last season he had 2.5 sacks and an interception in 14 games.

He was selected in the third round of the 2016 NFL drat by the Cleveland Browns, after playing his college career at Penn State, and has also played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Former New England Patriot’s receiver Julian Edelman took to Twitter to congratulate Nassib.

“Awesome moment. Spreading the love to the Trevor Project very classy move,” tweeted Edelman.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, also welcomed the announcement.

“The NFL family is proud of Carl for courageously sharing his truth today. Representation matters,” said Mr Goodell.

“We share his hope that someday soon statements like this will no longer be newsworthy as we march toward full equality for the LGBTQ+ community. We wish Carl the best of luck this coming season.”



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Brexit poll shows ‘limited enthusiasm’ for UK-EU trade deal

Brexit poll shows ‘limited enthusiasm’ for UK-EU trade deal
Brexit poll shows ‘limited enthusiasm’ for UK-EU trade deal


British voters have “limited enthusiasm” for the post-Brexit agreement Boris Johnson’s government negotiated with the EU last year, with only one in five describing it as a “good” deal, a survey has found.

However, ahead of the fifth anniversary of the 2016 EU referendum on Wednesday, the poll also found that years of divisive political debate had changed few minds — with four out five people who voted saying they would still vote the same way.

Sir John Curtice, politics professor at Strathclyde university, who led the research for the polling group What UK Thinks and the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), said the findings were “far from a ringing endorsement” of the Brexit trade deal.

“Five years on, it is difficult to argue that the Brexit referendum has been an unalloyed success,” Curtice wrote, noting Leavers’ limited enthusiasm for the Brexit deal. At the same time, he added, the outcome had reconciled few Remain voters to the Brexit project.

The overall tepid response to the trade deal negotiated by Lord David Frost last year found that even among Leave voters, only one in three felt it was a “good” deal, although that figure reflected the fact that some Leave voters would have preferred to have left the EU on even harder terms, with no deal at all.

Column chart of Per cent showing Enthusiasm is limited for the UK's post-Brexit deal with Brussels

The survey was conducted just weeks after the UK left the EU single market on January 1 and is the latest in a rolling series of polls that have been conducted by What UK Think and NatCen since 2016.

The UK-EU Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) did not trigger the significant disruption predicted for UK ports this January, but did cause UK exports to the EU to fall sharply in some sectors such as agrifood, where exports fell by nearly 50 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared to 2019 and 2020. 

Other broader impacts, particularly on professional services and travel, have to some extent been masked by Covid-19, which has sharply reduced leisure and business travel to Europe this year. 

Despite misgivings about the post-Brexit deal, the poll continued to vindicate Johnson’s decision to make good on his 2019 election promise to “get Brexit done”, with dissatisfaction with the UK government’s handling of Brexit falling from a peak of 88 per cent in autumn 2019 during the period of prolonged parliamentary stalemate, to about 50 per cent today.

“The confidence that Leave voters had in the UK government was badly shaken when it appeared that Brexit might not happen, but it has now largely been restored,” Curtice wrote. 

At the same time, the survey found that three out of four Leave voters now expect either immigration to fall or that the economy will be better off — two key metrics of Brexit — indicating that for many voters, “the detail of Brexit matters less than the principle”.

As for whether a rerun of the 2016 Referendum today would see a different result, the poll found it probably would not.

While a clear majority of those who did not vote in 2016 say they would now vote to rejoin the EU, they are likely to be cancelled out by the number of Remain voters who — even though they still wished the UK had remained a member of the EU — would not now vote because of the further upheaval of rejoining. 

“We estimate that a referendum held now on ‘rejoin’ versus ‘stay out’ could well produce a narrow majority (52%) in favour of staying out,” Curtice said.

Looking to the future, Curtice said it was not clear whether public opinion would swing if future difficulties with the UK-EU TCA emerged once Covid-19 restrictions were lifted in the coming months. 

Much would depend on whether the opposition Labour party, which has so far been reluctant to campaign on Brexit issues for fear of alienating Leave voters in target constituencies, was prepared to make an issue of Brexit in the future.

“Proof of the Brexit pudding will be in the eating, and the main course has been delayed by the pandemic,” Curtice told the FT.

“To make a difference, the government’s record will have to be criticised and that will depend on the extent to which the opposition is willing to tackle what they regard as the operational failures of Brexit.”



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