Gene drive technology is too powerful to obtain the social license to deploy – is the Daisy Drive a solution?

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Gene drive technology has the potential to eliminate scourges like malaria – if we can develop the technology without provoking social license problems. It’s the lack of social license that has hobbled bioengineering to a small fraction of what we could have accomplished in the last couple of decades. Similarly, it’s the lack of social license that has hobbled global deployment of nuclear power.

Making gene drives practical is not yet a solved problem, though Bill Gates has said publicly that he thinks the foundation will be ready for trial releases in “a couple of years”. But how do we test the design of a CRISPR gene drive without a whole series of test releases? If people fear that testing means global impacts we will never be able to complete the initial tests.

That’s why I think the general category of gene drive inhibitor techniques are so important. Gene drive innovator Kevin Esvelt has a clear view of the social problem so he is investing effort to develop community support for the very first tests. Kevin is working with the community of Nantucket to suppress Lyme disease by releasing genetically engineered white-footed mice (the principal reservoir of Lyme disease).  Bringing the community to a “let’s proceed” consensus is a slow process, but I’m sure Kevin is right. If we don’t do this right we risk losing access to a valuable technology.

Michael Specter did a terrific New Yorker article on the topic “Rewriting the Code of Life”. And don’t miss Kevin Esvelt’s nuanced interview with Joi Ito on the realities of developing practical gene drives and social license.

Follow Kevin Esvelt on Twitter @kesvelt.

Update: Here are my sources documenting the public position of Bill Gates on gene drive research and deployment:

Bill Gates: Some People Think Eradicating Mosquitoes With Genetics Is Scary, But I Don’t Think It Will Be

Gates noted that the regulatory path for the technology is “unclear,” and that it’s not certain what will need to be done from a legal perspective before exterminating some species of mosquitoes in this way. However, he said, “I would deploy it two years from now.”

(…snip…) “I have to always show respect for people who think it is a scary thing to do,” Gates said. “I don’t think it will be. I think the way we’re doing the construct will make it a very key tool for malaria eradication.”

Bill Gates Doubles His Bet on Wiping Out Mosquitoes with Gene Editing

The new money will help Target Malaria “explore the potential development of other constructs, as well as to start mapping out next steps for biosafety, bioethics, community engagement, and regulatory guidance,” says Callahan. “It’s basically a lot of groundwork.” The Gates Foundation views the technology as a “long shot” that won’t necessarily work but, if it does, could effectively end malaria.

The foundation previously said it plans to have a gene-drive approved for field use by 2029 somewhere in Africa. But Gates, the founder of Microsoft, offered more enthusiastic prognostications in comments made this summer, saying the technology might be ready in just two years

This Analysis Shows How Viral Fake Election News Stories Outperformed Real News On Facebook

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Up until those last three months of the campaign, the top election content from major outlets had easily outpaced that of fake election news on Facebook. Then, as the election drew closer, engagement for fake content on Facebook skyrocketed and surpassed that of the content from major news outlets.

…All the false news stories identified in BuzzFeed News’ analysis came from either fake news websites that only publish hoaxes or from hyperpartisan websites that present themselves as publishing real news. The research turned up only one viral false election story from a hyperpartisan left-wing site.

Transparency kudos to Buzzfeed for releasing the data behind the above graphic-bait. There is a good bit of detail in the Buzzfeed analysis.

Carole Cadwalla: how big data technology influences what we see and how we vote

Jonathon Albright’s network graph of fake-news in relation to real-news websites

If you are looking for a carefully researched but readable accounting of this complex topic I recommend Carole Cadwalla’s Guardian index. Researching the fake news issue I found her December article “Google, democracy and the truth about internet search”. That reporting led me to some of the researchers in the field like Martin Moore at the Policy Institute at King’s College London and Jonathan Albright at Elon University. In the December article Carole asks my initial questions:

Did such micro-targeted propaganda – currently legal – swing the Brexit vote? We have no way of knowing. Did the same methods used by Cambridge Analytica help Trump to victory? Again, we have no way of knowing. This is all happening in complete darkness.

I am also asking “is there a positive-feedback servo loop where Cambridge Analytica [CA] exploits the fake news ecosystem to reinforce the dark posts that CA sends to micro-targeted Facebook accounts?” This excerpt from Google, democracy and the truth about internet search got my attention, beginning with Jonathon Albright’s comments: 

And the constellation of websites that Albright found – a sort of shadow internet – has another function. More than just spreading rightwing ideology, they are being used to track and monitor and influence anyone who comes across their content. “I scraped the trackers on these sites and I was absolutely dumbfounded. Every time someone likes one of these posts on Facebook or visits one of these websites, the scripts are then following you around the web. And this enables data-mining and influencing companies like Cambridge Analytica to precisely target individuals, to follow them around the web, and to send them highly personalised political messages. This is a propaganda machine. It’s targeting people individually to recruit them to an idea. It’s a level of social engineering that I’ve never seen before. They’re capturing people and then keeping them on an emotional leash and never letting them go.”

Cambridge Analytica, an American-owned company based in London, was employed by both the Vote Leave campaign and the Trump campaign. Dominic Cummings, the campaign director of Vote Leave, has made few public announcements since the Brexit referendum but he did say this: “If you want to make big improvements in communication, my advice is – hire physicists.”

Steve Bannon, founder of Breitbart News and the newly appointed chief strategist to Trump, is on Cambridge Analytica’s board and it has emerged that the company is in talks to undertake political messaging work for the Trump administration. It claims to have built psychological profiles using 5,000 separate pieces of data on 220 million American voters. It knows their quirks and nuances and daily habits and can target them individually.

“They were using 40-50,000 different variants of ad every day that were continuously measuring responses and then adapting and evolving based on that response,” says Martin Moore of Kings College. Because they have so much data on individuals and they use such phenomenally powerful distribution networks, they allow campaigns to bypass a lot of existing laws.

“It’s all done completely opaquely and they can spend as much money as they like on particular locations because you can focus on a five-mile radius or even a single demographic. Fake news is important but it’s only one part of it. These companies have found a way of transgressing 150 years of legislation that we’ve developed to make elections fair and open.”

Did such micro-targeted propaganda – currently legal – swing the Brexit vote? We have no way of knowing. Did the same methods used by Cambridge Analytica help Trump to victory? Again, we have no way of knowing. This is all happening in complete darkness. We have no way of knowing how our personal data is being mined and used to influence us. We don’t realise that the Facebook page we are looking at, the Google page, the ads that we are seeing, the search results we are using, are all being personalised to us. We don’t see it because we have nothing to compare it to. And it is not being monitored or recorded. It is not being regulated. We are inside a machine and we simply have no way of seeing the controls. Most of the time, we don’t even realise that there are controls.

There is no question that micro-targeted ads were deployed in the Brexit and Trump campaigns. We know there are controls on this machine. Who is operating those controls? Who built and operates the fake news ecosystem? If you have sources or insights, please comment. I plan to post anything definitive that I’m able to find. As I write Carole has published eight articles on this general topic. And Jonathan Albright has published a number of articles that delve into the machinery of behavioral micro-targeting and fake news propaganda. These are some of Jonathan Albright’s Medium articles I’m studying:

What’s Missing From The Trump Election Equation? Let’s Start With Military-Grade PsyOps

The #Election2016 Micro-Propaganda Machine

#Election2016: Propaganda-lytics & Weaponized Shadow Tracking

Data is the Real Post-Truth, So Here’s the Truth About Post-#Election2016 Propaganda

Left + Right: The Combined Post-#Election2016 News “Ecosystem”

FakeTube: AI-Generated News on YouTube

“Fake News” Sites: Certified Organic?

How to be an Errorist: if anti-nuclear content was factually true it wouldn’t be anti-nuclear

Errorist

I see far too many anti-nuclear press reports. It truly looks like all the big media journos have their favorite UCS and Greenpeace contacts in their Rolodex. And it is a fact that “Fear Sells”, whether clicks or newsprint. So I had a chuckle today when I read this little essay How to be an Errorist from the Northwest Energy folks. They were motivated to write this June 17, 2015 by the satirical New Yorker piece “Scientists: Earth Endangered by New Strain of Fact-Resistant Humans.”

While the story is made-up, many of these fact-resistant folks seem to be radically opposed to nuclear energy. This normally wouldn’t be of great concern, anyone can believe what they want. But when that ignorance (deception?) is given legitimacy through public policy discussions, then it can create a problem for society as a whole (impeding the development of new nuclear energy resources to combat climate change comes to mind).

So, I have a challenge for you Dear Reader: please email or Tweet me if you have encountered an anti-nuclear article that is factually correct. I’ve been scratching my head trying to remember such an instance — but I can’t think of a single case. If the content was factually true it wouldn’t be anti-nuclear.

South Australia’s tattered environmental remains

ConservationBytes.com

State budget percentage expenditures for health, education and environment South Australia State budget percentage expenditures for health, education and environment

Yesterday I gave the second keynote address at the South Australia Natural Resource Management (NRM) Science Conference at the University of Adelaide (see also a brief synopsis of Day 1 here). Unfortunately, I’m missing today’s talks because of an acute case of man cold, but at least I can stay at home and work while sipping cups of hot tea.

Many people came up afterwards and congratulated me for “being brave enough to tell the truth”, which both encouraged and distressed me – I am encouraged by the positive feedback, but distressed by the lack of action on the part of our natural resource management leaders.

The simple truth is that South Australia’s biodiversity and ecosystems are in shambles, yet few seem to appreciate this.

So for the benefit of those who couldn’t attend, I’ve uploaded the…

View original post 959 more words

#SavetheNukes Saving Illinois’ Nuclear Plants: We must act NOW!

From the comments:

Stephen Maloney asks:

If nuclear plants cannot compete anymore with other energy sources of which there is an abundance, why is it fair and right to force people to pay corporate welfare and prop up an uncompetitive and aging technology?

Gene Grecheck replies (Gene is Immediate Past President of ANS)

Stephen, because that competition is not on a level playing field. Wind and solar, for example, are so heavily subsidized (by all of us taxpayers) that they can often push their electricity into the market a negative prices, that is, they can afford to pay the market to take their electricity. They can only do that because their subsidy is greater than that payment. Subsidization of intermittent electricity sources then results in the need for heavy reliance on backup power to be available when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. That backup is usually natural gas fired: meaning that once again we are relying on power sources that pollute the air and add CO2 to the atmosphere. Every time a nuclear plant shuts down, emissions go up….negating years of efforts to reduce emissions.

There are many implications of energy choices; they must all be considered, and not just focus on short term prices.

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The plethora of wind and solar subsidies and mandates, plus cheap natural gas, is forcing abandonment of existing US nuclear plants. It is the most remarkably stupid energy policy that I can imagine, but that is the way US politics is playing out. Somehow we have to get the attention of Illinois state legislators to pass the Next Generation Energy Plan before the end of November. Otherwise Excelon will shutter the Clinton and Quad Cities plants — resulting in the loss of over 20 percent of Illinois’ clean energy and approximately 1,500 jobs.

In today’s ANS Nuclear Cafe Gene Grecheck and Brett Rampal explain how urgent it is to take action:

If you think someone else is going to stop nuclear plants from closing, it’s time to take off the blinders and take action. That was the message being touted during the #SavetheNukes Summit in Chicago on October 22-24, organized by Environmental Progress with the American Nuclear Society (ANS) Young Members Group (YMG), among others.

The summit was not held in Illinois by coincidence. After success in New York, those who were involved in the passage of the Clean Energy Standard and associated Zero Emissions Credit that saved the Fitzpatrick, Ginna, and Nine Mile Point plants felt invigorated to bring the fight to the next battlefield.

More than 70 nuclear advocates from diverse backgrounds (environmentalists, leaders of nuclear professional groups, nuclear advocacy groups, nuclear professionals, students, etc.) attended, including many ANS members, especially students!

Moving and inspirational are not usually the words used to describe nuclear meetings, but the understanding in the room was that time is short, and we need unity, organization, and fast action to save Exelon’s Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants,, which are slated for closure (or as one summit attendee put it, abandonment). Without the Next Generation Energy Plan that must be passed by the Illinois legislature in November  (just three weeks from now), the abandonment of the Clinton and Quad Cities plants would result in the loss of over 20 percent of Illinois’ clean energy and approximately 1,500 jobs!

If it passes with the nuclear component intact, the plants will get the small price support necessary to remain competitive in a market flooded with cheap natural gas and subsidized wind and solar.  “This is just smart energy policy,” said ANS member Lenka Kollar, who was representing the International Youth Nuclear Congress (IYNC) at the summit. “Keeping these valuable assets online is crucial for mitigating climate change and ensuring energy security for the future.”

Gene Grecheck with summit organizer & nuclear advocate Rachel Pritzker on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.

Gene Grecheck with summit organizer & nuclear advocate Rachel Pritzker on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue.

The summit was intended to motivate everyone in attendance to reach out to their networks of colleagues, friends, and family and get them to take action. After hearing about some lessons learned from other powerful and successful social movements (woman’s suffrage, gay rights, AIDS, etc.), summit attendees universally agreed that drastic and novel action was needed and could help us achieve our goals.

Everyone reading this article needs to take this message to heart and use social media to flood Illinois legislators with messages about the critical importance of both the Clinton and Quad Cities plants in terms of maintaining Illinois’ position as a clean energy leader. It is particularly vital that those who live in Illinois send letters and op-ed pieces to their local newspapers, and blast supportive messages out via their social media. Direct communication from ANS members in Illinois to their legislators is especially important to make the needed legislation possible. Don’t let the legislators only hear from the fossil energy interests and the tired old anti-nuclear arguments.

(…snip…)

If you have never considered actively advocating for nuclear energy before, we urge you to do it now. And we do mean NOW. Today. Before we lose two more large sources of clean energy and reverse any efforts to improve our air quality. Thank you for your action! And be sure to tag @ans_org and @ans_YMG on Twitter!

A Primer on How to Avoid Magical Solutions in Climate Policy

Roger Pielke Jr. summarizes the most critical points from his work on climate and energy policies that work. Hint, Kyoto is not one of these policies. Any proposed policy should be analyzed in the context of the Kaya Identity. Which of the four factors does the policy act on?

Carbon emissions = C = P x (GDP / P) x (TE / GDP) x (C / TE) [where TE is total energy]

In the following excerpt Dr. Pielke examines why effective decarbonization must be grounded on accelerating energy innovation (C / TE)): 

By now there is really no excuse for any professional involved in climate policy not to understand the implications of the Kaya Identity. The risks of not understanding the Kaya Identity is that one can get caught out proposing magic as the main mechanism of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Developed by Yoichi Kaya, a Japanese scientist, in the 1980s as means of generating emissions projections for use in climate models, the identity is also an extremely powerful tool of policy analysis, because it encompasses all of the tools in the policy toolbox that might be used to reduce emissions. The identity is comprised of four parts:

  • Population
  • Per capita wealth
  • Energy intensity of the economy (energy consumption/GDP)
  • Carbon intensity of energy (carbon dioxide emissions/energy consumption)

If we wish to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide with the goal of stabilizing its concentrations in the atmosphere, then we only have four levers, represented by each of the factors in the Kaya Identity.

In The Climate Fix, I simplify even further by combining population and per capita wealth, the result of which is simply GDP, and by combining energy intensity and carbon intensity, the product of which is carbon intensity of GDP.

That means that there are only two ways to reduce emissions to a level consistent with stabilization of concentrations at a low level (pick your favorite number, 350, 450, 550 ppm — the policy implications are identical). One is to reduce GDP. The second is to reduce the carbon intensity of GDP — to decarbonize. While there are a few brave/foolish souls who advocate a willful imposition of poverty as the remedy to accumulating carbon dioxide, that platform has not gathered much political steam. (See discussion of the Iron Law in TCF).

Instead, the only option left is innovation in how we produce and consume energy. That is it — innovation is the only game in town. Consequently, the correct metric of progress in innovation is a decrease in the ratio of carbon to GDP. For those who wish to stabilize carbon dioxide emissions, the proper policy debate is thus how do we stimulate energy innovation?

Read the rest of Roger’s essay, then please buy The Climate Fix. It’s a keeper:-)

Why the environmental movement is important for nuclear power

In 2014 Academy Award Nominee Robert Stone, the environmental activist Kirsty Gogan and the Swiss Entrepreneur Daniel Aegerter co-founded Energy for Humanity (EfH). EfH is a rare breed of non-profit — an NGO that is both pro-humanity and pro-nuclear.

Energy for Humanity has made a significant impact on both the political leadership and the public. Testimony to this impact is that EfH has been shortlisted for Business Green’s prestigious 2016 NGO Of The Year award [there are only three other nominees, none of which are the Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace crowd]. Another example is last year’s biggest climate event, the COP 21 Climate Summit in Paris, where EfH organised and hosted a series of high profile, well-attended events. One of these events was a major press conference for four of the world’s most renowned climate scientists.

The scientists — Kenneth Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution, Kerry Emanuel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, James E. Hansen of Columbia University and Tom Wigley of the University of Adelaide — used the news conference to build on an argument they first made as a group in a 2013 open letter to environmentalists. The Guardian published a related op-ed from the four.

“It’s time to stop using the sky as a waste dump. The climate doesn’t care whether the electricity comes from a wind turbine or a nuclear reactor. The climate just cares about carbon.”

Dr. Caldeira

With that background I think you can see why I asked Kirsty Gogan to do a guest post for Seekerblog. The following first appeared on NEI Magazine 22 April 2015]:

The documentary film Pandora’s Promise provided a platform for nuclear advocates to speak up for nuclear power as a green technology, prompting discussion and raising awareness of nuclear energy. A new organisation hopes to continue the momentum, explains Kirsty Gogan.

Why the environmental movement is important for nuclear power

Twenty-five years after the world was first alerted to the need to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions or irreversibly alter the Earth’s climate system, coal remains not only the world’s number one source of electrical energy, it remains the fastest growing.

Currently, 80% of the world’s renewable energy comes from hydroelectric power and there are few rivers left to dam. Wind and solar energy, the favoured energy technologies of environmental activists, have boomed in recent years. But their growth is a fraction of the growth of fossil fuels, rising to meet increasing global energy demand.

Crunching the numbers, the need for nuclear energy is clear. The world’s leading experts, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the International Energy Agency and the UN, have argued for a doubling or tripling of nuclear energy – requiring as many as 1000 new reactors – to stabilise carbon emissions. Moreover, there is a growing consensus among climate scientists that due to the impact of cumulative CO2 emissions, even an 80% reduction in fossil fuel use by 2050 will not be enough.

The question of safety

So, why is it that most people think the safest form of electricity generation is the most dangerous? (In fact, nuclear is the safest form of electricity, against a metric of deaths per TWh. Dr James Hansen and Dr Kharecha have provided evidence that nuclear energy has so far saved 1.8million lives by replacing coal and gas plants that would otherwise have been built resulting in deaths from particulate air pollution.)

In most countries with nuclear power, the maximum allowable dose limit for the public is 1mSv. Yet natural background radiation in the UK varies from 2mSv to 7mSv. However, there is no dose limit for coal fired power stations, which do emit radioactive emissions, as well as mercury, lead, and benzene.

People are afraid of nuclear partly due to an historical lack of trust. But it is also because the industry has spent years persuading everyone that nuclear is uniquely dangerous.

To be clear, I do not mean the actual safety performance or its importance. I’m talking about the messages being sent and the culture that has developed. The industry has failed to appreciate that by being so intent on telling everyone how seriously they take safety, their reassurances often have the opposite effect and leave everyone convinced what they are doing is incredibly dangerous.

Working to a quarter of the legal limit on dose has quite the opposite effect on public confidence as what is intended. Not only that, but it has forced the regulator to continuously demand higher standards, at a higher cost, to satisfy the perception of infinite danger, with negligible, or even negative benefits since it makes nuclear more difficult to build and fossil fuels more attractive.

Nuclear could learn from other industries. The glamour of the jet set era may be well and truly over, but airlines market themselves on their service, not on their safety record. Obviously we want to be confident that the airline is properly regulated, and that staff are professional and highly trained, but this should be an internal best practice, not an external marketing campaign. There’s a difference.

We need innovation not only in technology: we need social innovation too.

Pandora’s promise and a sea-change in sentiment

“When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do sir?”
John Maynard Keynes

Robert Stone’s documentary film Pandora’s Promise shattered the long-standing taboo against discussing nuclear energy as an environmental positive. It relates the story of how life-long environmentalists became staunch pro-nuclear advocates. In the course of explaining that journey, the film makes the case that nuclear is not only safer than most people fear, but essential to addressing the threat some fear most: climate change.

Since its release in June 2013, the film not only sparked a public debate, it created a safe space for nuclear supporters to speak out, shifting the discourse on nuclear energy. A series of public endorsements for nuclear followed Pandora’s Promise, including leading climate scientists and the New York Times editorial board. High-profile endorsements of nuclear energy continue to emerge, especially from figures respected in the environmental community, including Bill Gates, Richard Branson and US EPA administrators, along with a growing number of environmentalists, climate scientists, and policy makers. In January, sixty-six of the world’s leading conservation biologists signed an open letter to support nuclear expansion on environmental grounds. It is a powerful statement for the conservation community to speak up for nuclear as a green technology.

The success of Pandora’s Promise illustrates a tremendous gap in the nuclear education and advocacy space. The overwhelming response – from mainstream greens, journalists, government officials, and academics – was that Pandora’s Promise filled a much-needed role of being a strong, independent voice articulating the need for nuclear. Until now, existing messaging has largely come from governments and industry, leaving the field open for anti-nuclear groups. With enthusiasm from Pandora’s Promise still high, but the film’s campaign coming to a close, Robert Stone, Daniel Aegerter and I cofounded a new NGO, Energy for Humanity, to fill that gap.

No CO2, no problem?

Some may argue that CO2 emissions do not play a role in warming temperatures and that the nuclear industry should therefore not attempt to find common cause with those who support nuclear as a non-CO2 emitting power source.

But if we take such climate deniers at their word, why shouldn’t the world simply turn to much cheaper and readily available natural gas? It is increasingly plentiful and it doesn’t pollute. In fact, that is precisely what is happening; the US is currently shutting down perfectly good reactors in favour of cheaper, easy to build, natural gas turbines.

There are currently two core arguments in favour of nuclear technology:
1) We need to stop burning all forms of fossil fuels within the next few decades and nuclear energy is the only viable way of doing that; and
2) The developing world is rightly demanding more and more energy. The only way to completely meet that growing demand without burning more fossil fuels is with nuclear energy.

Every credible scientific or policy-making body concludes that a massive expansion of nuclear energy is critical if we are serious about transitioning from fossil fuels, not only for electricity generation, but also for industrial heat, desalination and transport.

However, we know that real issues around safety, waste, proliferation and cost prevent conventional nuclear energy from being scaled up globally to the extent necessary. This is especially the case in countries that do not have the required skills and infrastructure to build, maintain and operate conventional nuclear power plants, but which will account for the lion’s share of growth in energy demand. In addition, these huge plants require such large up-front capital investment that they are almost impossible to finance in the private sector.

This is why we must look to advanced reactors that are inherently safer, eliminate waste and are easier to build and operate. It may take ten years for these designs to prove their potential but this does not stop the USA, Russia, China, India, Canada, UK and many other countries, along with major investors, taking nuclear innovation very seriously.


About the author

Kirsty Gogan is an established expert in climate and energy communications with experience as a senior advisor to UK Government, industry, academic networks and non-profit organisations. She is cofounder CEO of Energy for Humanity, a new NGO working to meet the goal of universal access to clean and cheap energy.

Back to the EfH impact at COP21. Kirsty spoke at five events, including chairing the press conference. She organized a sold-out screening of Pandora’s Promise followed by a debate between Robert Stone and antinuclear activist Yves Marignac. EfH was everywhere, generating a corresponding amount of high quality media coverage – my count is over forty articles. All are worthwhile — I’ll pick just two to recommend:

By Andy @Revkin for The New York Times In Paris, Negotiators Trim a Draft Climate Agreement, Climate Scientists Press for Nuclear Energy, Activists Prepare for Failure

By Michael Specter for The New Yorker How Not To Debate Nuclear Energy And Climate Change

Simon Hix: UK stands alone in Europe’s third tier

…the choice for Britain is now between isolation within the EU, isolation outside the EU or a new relationship with the EU that protects the interests of the UK in the single market but outside the euro. —Simon Hix, Professor and Head of Department of Government, London School of Economics, UK

I just came across a 2013 letter to the editor of The Financial Times from Simon Hix:

Sir, In arguing that the UK could be the potential leader of the non-euro European Union states, Philip Dodds (Letters, May 20) misunderstands the direction of travel for most of these other states.

The eurozone states and the prospective eurozone states are together building a new macroeconomic union within the EU. Only the UK and Czech Republic did not sign the fiscal compact treaty and only the UK and Sweden look set to be outside the banking union. So, there are now three rather than two tiers in the EU, with the UK alone on the third tier.

As a result, it is now impossible to imagine the EU considering a UK candidate for the next Commission president. Since the UK is unlikely to join the euro or any of the related agreements, the choice for Britain is now between isolation within the EU, isolation outside the EU or a new relationship with the EU that protects the interests of the UK in the single market but outside the euro.

Simon doesn’t outline how, given the Brexit referendum, it’s possible for UK to negotiate “a new relationship with the EU that protects the interests of the UK in the single market but outside the euro”. I fail to see how such a deal is in the interests of the EU leadership, who worry every night about setting an attractive example for EU members contemplating escape from the Euro.