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Mutti the peacekeeper

No leader is indispensable, but it does feel like the future of Europe stands or falls with Angela Merkel. She’s been the godmother of the European Union for almost 15 years, and other leaders have learnt to accept one unspoken rule: Merkel is the adjudicator. Her aura of supreme power infuriated Nicolas Sarkozy, who wanted

Merkel’s thin ice

 Trier, Rhineland Was it really just a few months ago that Angela Merkel was being hailed as the leader of the western world? A few months since she was lauded as the only politician who could stand up to Trump? How quickly her power has ebbed away. Today she looks defeated, as if she knows

Legal challenge

Last week the Daily Telegraph’s front page showed the 15 Tory MPs who had voted against the government under the headline ‘The Brexit Mutineers’. One of the first things pointed out was that two thirds of the group were lawyers. (In fact, only nine of the 15 are barristers or solicitors; a tenth is the

Tough love | 23 November 2017

When Angela Merkel invited refugees to Germany in 2015, tearing up the rules obliging migrants to seek asylum in the first country they arrive in, the consequences were pretty immediate. Over 160,000 went to Sweden, leading to well-publicised disruption. Next door, things were different. Norway took in just 30,000; this year it has accepted just

Cashing out

What could be more terrifying than a return to the 15 per cent interest rates with which homebuyers had to contend in the early 1990s? Possibly the vision presented last week in UBS’s Global Economic Outlook: interest rates at minus 5 per cent. It would take us to an unknown world where savers who deposited

Cottage industry

There are nights when, crossing the dark parkland by my house, I see a man beneath a remote streetlamp. He is usually alone, and smokes as he circles the low walls of a squat little building. Most nights, after innumerable cigarettes and several laps of the place, he will slip from the light for good.

Ga Ga Land

Los Angeles stinks. Not just of the usual things: sex, money, suntan oil, hipster food, surfer wax — odours that I like. There’s a new whiff in town, and it’s a bad one. Weed. The smell of marijuana hangs over LA like an invisible menace. It’s an omnipresent fug. To walk from one end of

Notes on...

Literary motorcycling

No seat belts. No airbags. Just air, and coming at you as fast as you like. Motorcycling shouldn’t be allowed, really, but thank God it is. Hanging on to an engine braced between two wheels as you travel through the countryside is worth any dose of mindfulness. The NHS should prescribe it. Even with the