PM’s negotiators intent on waiting until last minute before sharing plan with Brussels. Boris Johnson’s Brexit negotiators have so far only presented the EU with a draft of the withdrawal agreement with the backstop scrubbed out, UK government sources have confirmed. In a move that has caused tensions with EU leaders, Johnson’s team are refusing to put forward a written proposal to Brussels at this stage for fear it will be rejected out of hand or publicly rubbished. Instead, they want to wait until almost the last minute before the October summit before presenting a plan to the EU, with just two weeks before the UK is due to leave the bloc. The UK government source said the two sides had debated alternatives to the backstop in written discussion documents – such as an all-Ireland regulatory zone and customs checks away from the border – but they would not be putting forward a legal text to the EU at this stage. There have been reports that David Frost, the UK’s lead negotiator, is keeping a plan locked safe in his briefcase but the wording has not been shared with Brussels. Frustration with the UK’s approach broke into the open on Monday as Xavier Bettel, the prime minister of Luxembourg, gave a press conference next to an empty podium following a meeting with Johnson, who refused to take part because of loud protests nearby. Bettel said the UK government needed to put on paper an alternative to the Irish backstop, and appeared to suggest that party political considerations might be standing in the way. “I told him: ‘I hear a lot but I don’t read a lot.’ If they want to discuss anything we need to have it written [down] … Don’t put the blame on us because they don’t know how to get out of the situation they put themselves in,” Bettel said. As the chaotic scenes were played out, the European commission issued a statement disclosing that its president, Jean-Claude Juncker, had told the prime minister it was his responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions and that “such proposals have not yet been made”. Johnson has brushed off the Luxembourg incident with a claim that he is still working towards a deal and believes EU leaders will want to strike an agreement because they have had a “bellyful” of Brexit. He spoke to Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, on Tuesday morning, agreeing to have further discussions with her in New York at the UN general assembly next week. There are only three days left until the end of the 30-day deadline Merkel gave Johnson last month to come up with alternative solutions to remove the need for a backstop, which Eurosceptics in parliament refuse to vote for because it could keep the UK indefinitely in a customs union. Johnson is also likely to meet Donald Tusk, the European council president, at the UN conference and No 10 hopes that some progress towards a deal could be made at that summit. However, many in Brussels are sceptical there is enough time left to do a deal. It is just one month before the crucial EU summit on 17 October, where Johnson hopes to secure a deal, and six weeks before the UK is due to leave on 31 October unless it requests an extension. Johnson is mandated by the UK parliament to seek a three-month extension if he does not strike a Brexit deal by then. He has insisted he will not do this but has not set out how he would avoid such an outcome. Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, refused on Tuesday to rule out a second prorogation as part of No 10’s tactics to achieve a no-deal Brexit. Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme whether the current suspension of parliament could happen again, Buckland said: “Harold Wilson said a week is a long time in politics. It seems like an hour is a long time in politics at the moment. “For me to sit here and imagine what might happen at the end of October, I think, is idle. What I do know, if we are able to, we will have a Queen’s speech in mid-October, there will be debate during that time and a vote as well, and perhaps a series of votes. “Parliament has already shown its power. It had a week in September where it made pretty significant legislation. I think the idea that somehow parliament has been prevented from having its voice doesn’t seem to be borne out by events, frankly.”
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EU commission president says Belgium is no longer a model for successful cohabitation. Jean-Claude Juncker has become embroiled in a row with the mayors of two Belgian seaside resorts after claiming that he speaks German on the Flemish coast because of a growing intolerance of French speakers. The European commission president is facing demands to apologise publicly over the comments, in which he had lamented a growing division in Belgian society. “I have noticed, over the 30 years I have been on the Belgian coast, that tolerance has been declining,” Juncker said in an interview marking the end of his time as president. “Thirty years ago, I was at the baker’s, the butcher’s, I could place my orders in French; today we no longer accept it. So I speak German – they accept Germans.” “Belgium is no longer a model for successful cohabitation and that makes me sad,” Juncker added. In response, the mayor of Ostend, Bart Tommelein, described Juncker’s analysis as “strange”. “Everyone is welcome here, no matter what language they are trying to speak,” he tweeted. The mayor of Middelkerke, west of Ostend, called Juncker’s claims “insulting”. “I think Juncker was drunk when he came here and ordered his steak. He was probably unintelligible to the shopkeeper,” Jean-Marie Dedecker said. “I think that’s a big insult. He’ll apologise.” Belgium is a federal state with distinct regions including Dutch-speaking Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south, but there is growing support for parties advocating Flemish independence. Juncker said he did not believe the division in Belgium was an indication of a wider problem in Europe. He told the Dutch-language Belgian newspaper Tijd: “This is a purely Belgian phenomenon. Belgium is a state, but the communities see themselves as nations, particularly Flanders. Wallonia is not a national concept in itself, but Flanders thinks of itself and behaves like a nation. It’s incredible to see these two entities, who are actually very different, living together without actually living together. “But I am proud of Belgium for Belgium. It is a beautiful country, with talented, resourceful people.”
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These amazing sea images showcase Britain’s love of its coastline.The Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society has unveiled the winners of its Ultimate Sea View 2019 photography competition.Each of the chosen photos embodies the UK’s historic relationship with the sea.The overall winner, titled “Landing Mackerel”, depicts a proud fisherman looking over his catch.It was captured by amateur photographer Laurence Hartwell in the port of Newlyn, Cornwall, winning him a £500 voucher for camera equipment.There were more than 800 entries in this year’s contest, which was broken down into four categories.In the Ships & Wrecks category, Amanda Burgess won for her photo, “Fate of the Mersey Ferry”, taken along the River Thames at Woolwich, London.John Alderson took the top prize in the People category for “Sunrise Through the Wave”, photographed in Sunderland.Read moreExperimental cold treatment offers ‘complete protection’ from virusBoris Johnson mocked for dodging EU press conference amid loud protestsA third of Britons say climate change will lead to extinction of human raceIn the Recreation category, Alan Humphries was the winner for his photo of a helicopter, titled “Brighton Sussex Display”.And in the Coastal Views category, Mark Dobson’s amazing picture of waves at Gwithian, Cornwall, “Wild Seas”, was the winner.Celebrating its 180th year, the Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society offers financial support to former seafarers and their dependants.Captain Justin Osmond said: “This year we received an extremely high level of top-quality images that showcased the beauty, industry and people that contribute to the UK’s coastal areas.“With 2019 being our 180th year, it was amazing to see this celebration of British maritime culture seen from up and down country.“Laurence Hartwell’s winning image, ‘Landing Mackerel’, was a particularly powerful image that we thought really represented those that the charity is here to support and symbolises the thousands of UK fisherman that work on our waters.”
Museum of the Second World War, Gdańsk: ‘The museum’s special focus was to be on the global context of the war and the fate of civilians in the bloody conflict.’ Photograph: Czarek Sokołowski/APPopulists treat the past like fast food: they go straight for what’s tasty and comforting for them, leaving aside the bits that might be healthier and more nutritious for all. But the honest study of history is not about making you feel good. Take the case of the second world war and how, 80 years after the invasion of Poland, a dispute in Gdańsk over a museum about the war is playing out.The populists in Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party have meddled so much in redrafting the narrative conveyed both by the museum and its main exhibition that four Polish historians involved with the institution’s creation and launch have been left with little choice but to go to court. Populists care little about the complexities and even less about acknowledging dark chapters of Poland’s collective pastThe courts are hardly the best place to adjudicate on the lessons of history. Universities, academies, libraries and museums are surely more suited to such debates. So let me explain how things got to this point.The Gdańsk Museum of the Second World War opened in 2017 to some fanfare; its distinguishing and unconventional features were to be its special focus both on the global context of the war and on the fate of civilians in the bloody conflict. The main exhibition took eight years to put together. The American historian Timothy Snyder called the project a “civilisational achievement” and “perhaps the most ambitious museum devoted to the second world war in any country”.But the populists who had come to power in Poland’s elections two years earlier found this unbearable, preferring to promote a version of events that would airbrush real history and glorify the nation instead. Soon enough the minister of culture and national heritage, Piotr Gliński, dismissed the Gdańsk museum director, Paweł Machcewicz . A new director, Karol Nawrocki, was duly installed who set about altering the main exhibition – without consulting its authors. The revised approach was to tack closely to government guidelines giving emphasis to a glorification of Polish military actions and to cast Poland as a righteous nation: the museum would be a monument to national martyrology.Nawrocki, for example, replaced a filmed summary of civilians’ experiences in the war with another film altogether, in which the soundtrack includes claims that can only be described as propaganda, with phrases such as: “we saved Jews”; “we give life in the name of dignity and freedom”; “we were betrayed”; “the pope gave hope of victory”; “communists lose”; “we won” and “we do not beg for freedom, we fight for it”. This is populist history. Populist historians tell people – especially those who have voted for them – what they want to hear about the past. Remembering the war is a zero-sum game to them: it’s about winners and losers. They care little about the complexities and even less about acknowledging dark chapters of Poland’s collective past. What have we really learned from the past? Old photos of a completely destroyed Warsaw reminded me of news images of other cities, such as Aleppo, that have in more recent times experienced the full brutality of a military onslaught. All the more reason to be reminded of what went before us and of those caught up in the horror.But for populist historians – and not only in Poland – history is not about learning lessons; it is either a plaything to salve national complexes or a weapon to use in foreign policy (for example, in Polish-Ukrainian or Polish-Israeli relations).Machcewicz along with the museum’s other founding historians, Janusz Marszalec, Rafał Wnuk and Piotr M Majewski, responded to all this with a loud “no”. They have sued the new director of the museum over the infringement of their copyright for the exhibition’s content and managed to halt other changes to the museum. I totally agree with Machcewicz, who describes this saga as “Poland’s most important dispute about history in years”.The case, which the courts have yet to rule on, is the first of its kind in Poland and probably in Europe. I can’t think of another example of an exhibition mounted by a major museum being censored by a government because it pays too much attention to civilians and because it insufficiently glorifies the nation. It feels more like the standards that would be applied in Putin’s Russia than in a democratic member state of the European Union.The late Leszek Kołakowski, one of Poland’s greatest philosophers, wrote in his essay, Doctor Faustus: “We learn about the past to know how to recognise around us those faces touched by its worst legacy.” To me, a young Pole, this surely is the best definition of the point of studying history. It will hardly surprise you that communist censors didn’t let Kołakowski publish those words. And now, 30 years after the communist regime collapsed in Poland, history is again being manipulated for political motives. It’s as if only one version – that approved by a rightwing government that has overseen countless acts of democratic backsliding and is seeking re-election next month – is acceptable. Anyone who sees things differently is deemed a public enemy.When I started looking into the Gdańsk museum dispute as a news story, it felt like a good issue to report – especially as I had studied history at university and am passionate about it. But gradually it became something more deeply personal; I realised that this was about our collective values. And it should be personal for anyone who cares about pluralism and free debate. This is a battle to safeguard history that’s not written in black and white, nor aimed at serving a political agenda, but history that inspires us to make connections between the past and today’s world. Big words, you might say. But those four historians who are taking on the government have picked a fight that goes far beyond the future of one museum. This has a European meaning. It concerns us all.• Estera Flieger is a journalist with Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza