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Under The Radar – 8 April

Source: Pierre Borthiry via Unsplash

This week we discuss:

  1. Are you Corbyn in disguise?

  2. Like it’s 1982

  3. You can’t cancel the Costa Rican President

Are you Corbyn in disguise?

What happened?

As part of the newly unveiled energy security strategy, the government will bring part of the National Grid back into public ownership in order to help reach net zero targets.

What does it mean?

The National Grid will sell its utility arm, the Electricity System Operator, back to the government, in order to form a new public body – the Future System Operator.

This newly created body will have responsibility for planning and managing energy distribution, with a particular focus on the challenges and changes the grid will face as we move towards a decarbonised economy.

The announcement comes following significant worry from government and consumers alike over Britain’s preparedness to be both a net-zero and an energy independent nation. Sky-rocketing energy bills and a war in Ukraine that has highlighted our reliance on foreign nations for our energy needs has put energy firmly at the top of the government’s agenda. Bringing the National Grid back under the public remit could be seen as a sign of how seriously they are taking the task ahead, or potentially that there is panic over the scale of the task…

It has long been suggested that the National Grid was unprepared for the transition to low-carbon energy sources. Unlike gas and coal plants, which can be fired up when needed to meet additional demands, many of the energy sources the government now wants to prioritise do not come with this luxury. Nuclear power plants produce energy 24/7, no matter what the demand is, and renewables like wind and solar are as unpredictable as the weather.

How to plan and manage all of this, whilst still meeting growing electricity demands will be one of the biggest challenges the new Future System Operator will face.

Like it’s 1982

What happened?

Santiago Cafiero, the Argentine foreign minister, has criticised the UK for refusing to engage in dialogue over the future of the Falkland Islands.

What does it mean?

In a statement released on the 40th anniversary of the Argentine invasion of the islands in April 1982, the foreign minister has claimed that Argentinian-British relations will not improve if the UK does not engage in talks on the future sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

Cafiero claims “the 1982 conflict did not alter the nature of the dispute between both countries, which is still pending negotiation and resolution.” The foreign minister reminded the British government that prior to the 1982 invasion there had been sixteen years of negotiation regarding the sovereignty of the islands.

The British government is yet to respond to Cafiero’s statement. The plebiscite conducted in 2013 which revealed that 99.8% of Falkland islanders wish to remain British forms the cornerstone of the British diplomatic position on the islands.

This is the second time in a month that the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands has been raised in international dialogue. In February, China released a statement declaring that Argentina should be able to “fully exercise its sovereignty over the [Falklands] Islands issue”, to which the Argentinian president Alberto Fernández responded with support to President Xi’s one-China policy, which claims Taiwan as a part of mainland China.

Set against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – in which Putin seeks to claim the independent state as a part of a wider Russian bloc – this dialogue is even more concerning. The West must remain united against the attack on Ukrainian sovereignty, as success for Putin could be interpreted as a green light for expansionist states the world over.

You can’t cancel the Costa Rican President

What happened?

Costa Rica has elected its new president, the right-wing economist Rodrigo Chaves. His aggressive style has seen him compared to former US president Donald Trump. What does it mean? Political stagnation has long existed in the country – perhaps a side-effect of the stability and relative prosperity Costa Rica has enjoyed, particularly when compared to some other countries in the region.

However, there are significant issues for the next president to tackle, with unemployment standing at 15% and the country’s lucrative ecotourism industry struggling to recover from the impact of the pandemic. The other candidate, José María Figueres, was a favourite for the presidency, having previously taken up the office between 1994 and 1998. However, his image has been tainted by a corruption scandal, which, coupled with the rise of anti-establishment politics and no real innovative message to offer to voters, has proven to be enough to sink his campaign. But Chaves’ image isn’t squeaky clean either. He has previously faced sexual harassment accusations during his time working for the World Bank, which eventually drove him out of the institution. Returning to Costa Rica in 2011, he later became finance minister under current president Carlos Alvarado Quesada. Chaves is now promising to rework a financial support deal with the IMF, while strengthening the economy, creating more jobs and focusing on healthy public finances. Whether his technocratic approach brings back the spirit of “Pura Vida” the country has long been famous for, remains to be seen.

This Week’s Must Reads

  1. “The world-changing meaning of Putin” by Edward Luce for The Financial Times

  2. “Akshata Murty’s non-dom status is totally legal – and perfectly toxic for Rishi Sunak” by Gaby Hinsliff for The Guardian

  3. “Nicola Sturgeon’s secret state” by James Heale and Michael Simmons for The Spectator

  4. “After the disaster of lockdown, children are being failed again” by James Kirkup for The Times

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