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Brexit will not lead to Mad Max-style world, says David Davis

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David Davis hopes to calm fears of Brexit triggering a “race to the bottom” in production standards in a speech on Tuesday.

The Brexit Secretary will declare that leaving the EU will instead create a “race to the top in global standards”.

Speaking in Vienna, Austria, as part of a series of speeches designed as a PR blitz on Brexit, he is set to say the concerns are “borrowed from dystopian fiction”.

Some critics have raised concerns that quitting the single market could see a drop in food standards – such as chlorinated chickens and milk containing antibiotics being part of a US trade deal.

David Davis
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David Davis is due to give a speech in Vienna

He will say some critics “fear that Brexit could lead to an Anglo-Saxon race to the bottom. With Britain plunged into a Mad Max-style world borrowed from dystopian fiction”.

“These fears about a race to the bottom are based on nothing, not history, not intention, nor interest.”

Mr Davis will add: “While I profoundly disagree with them. It does remind us all that we must provide reassurance.”

Raw  butchered chicken in queue
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Critics fear quitting the single market could see a drop in food standards. Pic file

He will present the Government’s view as part of a case for a Free Trade Agreement with the EU after Brexit day – saying he is “certain” a good deal can be achieved.

“The agreement we strike will not be about how to build convergence but what to do when one of us wants to make changes to rules,” Mr Davis is expected to tell business leaders.

“Neither side should put up unnecessary barriers during this process.”

He will add that the deal requires “close, even-handed cooperation between these authorities and a common set of principles to guide them”.

Responding, Labour MP and supporter of the pro-EU group Open Britain Chuka Umunna branded Mr Davis’ trailed speech “utterly lacking in any content or vision”.

Chuka Umunna in Millbank studio.
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Chuka Umunna said the speech was ‘utterly lacking in any content’

He said: “David Davis insists that Brexit won’t mean a race to the bottom on everything from workers’ rights to environmental standards but not everyone around the Cabinet table agrees with him.

“Theresa May has repeatedly failed to rule out scrapping working time regulations, Boris Johnson wants to get rid of the Social Chapter and Liam Fox says he’s in favour of importing chlorinated chicken from the United States.”

Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable added Mr Davis “might as well be making the case for staying in the EU”.

He said: “It’s the Boris Johnson school of having the cake and eating it, which we already know is unrealistic.”

It comes after speeches by Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Mrs May announced she wanted a new security treaty with the EU – and said she would “respect” the remit of the European Court of Justice when Britain participated in its agencies.

Mr Johnson set out his pitch for “the great liberal project of the age”. And he refused to rule out quitting this year.

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European super league plans set to be announced – six English teams involved, Sky News understands | UK News

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Six English teams are expected to be part of plans for a breakaway European super league, with an announcement due tonight, Sky News understands.

Among the English clubs involved are Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea.

The project has been launched to rival UEFA’s Champions League format which currently dominates European football.

Sky News’ City editor Mark Kleinman said: “My understanding is that 12 clubs from across Europe including the six biggest English clubs have now signed up to this new format.

“The others include Barcelona, Juventus and Real Madrid.”

Kleinman added: “The new league includes staggering sums of money that will be handed to the participating clubs. About $6bn has been committed to this new project by the American bank JP Morgan.

“And this will come after European clubs’ finances have been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic which is one of the reasons why so many of Europe’s biggest clubs have decided that now is the right time to form a European super league after years of on/off discussions about such a project.”

The Premier League’s chief executive Richard Masters has written to all 20 of the league’s clubs in England to state its opposition to the new project.

Mr Masters told the 20 that “this venture cannot be launched without English clubs and we call upon any club contemplating associating themselves or joining this venture to walk away immediately before irreparable damage is done”.

Mr Masters goes on to say in the memo: “We do not and cannot support such a concept.

“Premier League rules contain a commitment amongst clubs to remain within the football pyramid and forbid any clubs from entering competitions beyond those listed in Rule L9, without Premier League board permission.

“I cannot envisage any scenario where such permission would be granted.”

There have been reports of a plan for a breakaway league for a number of years and the speculation returned in January with several media reports that a document had been produced outlining the plans for a 20-team league.

Those reports led FIFA and UEFA to warn they would ban any players involved in a breakaway from playing in the World Cup or European Championship.

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World’s largest iceberg A68a melts away after three years, satellite data shows | Climate News

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The world’s largest iceberg has virtually melted away, according to satellite data.

The 5,800sq km (2,239sq miles) ice block known as A68a broke off from the Antarctic peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017.

But satellite images now show the iceberg has broken up into tiny pieces, which are too small to track any further, the US National Ice Center said.

The iceberg spent two years not moving far before it became caught in a powerful current that propelled it northeast.

(BFSAI/CORPORAL PHILIP DYE)
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A68a was too big to get in one photo when it was monitored near South Georgia. Pic: BFSAI/CORPORAL PHILIP DYE

The structure drew attention in December last year when it looked like it might hit the island of South Georgia, while travelling through the Southern Antarctic Front.

There were concerns it would threaten the island’s diverse wildlife if it impacted.

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An RAF reconnaissance aircraft was drafted to capture images of A68a in a bid to predict where it might travel.

By this point A68a measured 4,200sq km (1,622sq miles) but it has shrunk further this year, with multiple icebergs calving from it since January.

Image from Friday 16 April. Pic: US national ice center
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Satellite image from Friday 16 April showing A68a at two by three nautical miles. Pic: US National Ice Center

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Climate situation is ‘extremely urgent’

The last clear image of A68a was taken on Friday. It showed the iceberg had shrunk to just three by two nautical miles.

The US National Ice Center, which names, tracks and documents Antarctic icebergs, only studies icebergs that are at least 20sq nautical miles or measure 10 nautical miles on its longest axis.

The centre told Sky News it would not make an official statement on the demise of A68a but confirmed it had fallen below the minimum size criteria they use to track icebergs.

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Sky News broadcasts the first daily prime time news show dedicated to climate change.

Hosted by Anna Jones, The Daily Climate Show is following Sky News correspondents as they investigate how global warming is changing our landscape and how we all live our lives.

The show will also highlight solutions to the crisis and show how small changes can make a big difference.

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What is a non-fungible token – and why are some digital artworks selling for millions? | Ents & Arts News

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“I know you can be underwhelmed and you can be overwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?”

So Chastity asks Bianca in the excellent 1999 comedy 10 Things I Hate About You, and pretty much sums up my feelings the first time I Googled the words “non-fungible token”. Overwhelmed, in this case, because what is non-fungible? And also: can there ever just be fungible?

Turns out, yes there can. Cue tech experts (oh, and economics and language experts, and probably anyone under the age of 25) calling me stupid here, but I am definitely not alone.

Before 2021, for the majority of people, the likelihood is the word non-fungible wasn’t something that ever came up in day-to-day conversation. But now it is coming up in headlines, and lots of them, about digital artwork, with many pieces selling for huge amounts.

Digital artist Pak's fungible collection. Pic: Sotheby's
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Digital artist Pak’s Fungible Collection sold for almost $17 million. Pic: Sotheby’s
Artist Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, sold NFT artwork for $69.3 million in an online auction of a collage of 5,000 images at Christie’s auction house. Pic: AP
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Artist Mike Winkelmann, aka Beeple, sold hs NFT artwork for $69.3 million through an auction at Christie’s. Pic: AP

So what is an NFT? Basically, it’s the most recent craze from the cryptocurrency world and it has exploded in the past few months. If something is fungible, it is interchangeable with another good or asset – non-fungible means it is not.

In the real world, good examples of non-fungible assets include football trading cards and plane tickets. Although two plane tickets may look the same, each one will have a different destination, seat number and airline class, meaning they cannot be swapped like for like.

An NFT is a unique digital asset. Sceptics may not be convinced, but there’s a reason investors are willing to part with their cash.

In March, the first sale ever by a major auction house of a piece of art that does not exist in physical form was held by Christie’s.

Created by digital artist Beeple, it sold for $69.3m (£50.3m). Earlier this week, an online sale of NFTs by the digital artist Pak fetched a total of $16.8m (£12.2m) at Sotheby’s, including an image of a single pixel which sold for $1.36m (£987,000).

In each case, no physical object changed hands – the NFTs exist exclusively in digital form, with blockchain (a digital record) acting as a public ledger to verify ownership status. While critics argue that these works can be copied and shared, the experts say this is no different to the physical world. Copies are not the original.

There have been many other examples of NFT sales in recent months. You may have heard of Kings Of Leon becoming the first band to release an album as an NFT, musician Grimes selling a digital art collection for £4.3m, or Twitter founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey selling his first ever tweet for just over £2m.

A group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts even banded together to buy an original Banksy for £68,000 – then burnt it in a livestreamed video. The art was then turned into an NFT… which sold for £290,000.

So what is it all about? Art revolutionised, investment, or both?

I spoke to artist Tim Fowler, Sotheby’s Max Moore, and Ashley Ramos, from NFT marketplace Nifty Gateway, to find out more.

Artist Tim Fowler is selling some of his work as non-fungible tokens
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Artist Tim Fowler has based his NFTs on a physical collection of 100 skulls which he painted in 2018

‘The biggest barricade for our generation is getting your head round the physical and the digital’

Tim Fowler, from Leicester, has been working full-time as an artist for about three years, selling his work in the traditional sense – physical paintings for people to hang on their walls. Earlier this year, he took the leap into the digital world, basing his NFTs on a 2018 performance exhibition at which people were able to watch as he created 100 paintings of his signature skulls in a gallery over the course of a week.

He was approached by Sango, who created NFT Crypto Trolls and runs the virtual MetaZoo gallery in online gaming world Decentraland, and asked if he would like to get involved. The 35-year-old admits he was sceptical at first, but curiosity got the better of him.

“I asked the same questions that people ask me: what are [buyers] paying for? Why are people buying it? Does it mean they have a legal copyright over the piece they bought, to reproduce? Once I kind of figured it out, we got the ball rolling.”

Unlike solely digital artists, Tim still creates physical pieces, photographing his work to create the NFTs. He decided to use his skull designs as they fitted in with the idea of being collectible.

“The idea was that we slowly release 100 of these skulls again and each one will have various mints – another word for edition. So there could be 10 NFTs of one, but others might just have one NFT, making them rarer. So the idea is that we slowly release these skulls and we get people to start wanting to collect them… like Pokemon cards, football stickers, that kind of thing.”

Tim has made around £6,000 selling NFT skulls in the last three weeks. And rather from diminishing the value of the physical pieces, he says the digital world has only helped to elevate his traditional work. “In a way, it makes that piece, the actual physical piece, more desirable and more valuable because there’s already a collector base for that image,” he says. “It’s like selling out a print edition but you still have the original painting.”

This is something that gamers and cryptocurrency experts have been clued up about for a while, he says. So why is it so difficult for some people to understand?

Artist Tim Fowler is selling some of his work as non-fungible tokens
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The NFT skulls can be see in the virtual MetaZoo Gallery in Decentraland. Pic: Sango/MetaZoo Gallery

“I think the biggest barricade for the majority of people, especially from our generation, is getting your head around the physical and the digital,” says Fowler. “If you speak to kids nowadays, they’ll spend a lot of money in games like Fortnite where they’re buying clothing… or a sword or whatever.

“The way I see it is, a lot of people buying the NFTs, they come from the crypto world. They’re buying something that they’re going to hold on to with the idea that a few years down the line, that’ll be worth more money. It’s the same reason they’re buying Bitcoin.

“That’s why it confuses a lot of people, because they’re looking at it from an art buyer’s world, like we buy paintings to hang on our wall. But a lot of these people, they’re buying it to to keep in their crypto wallets.”

Basically, it’s as much about investment as art, he says. And for the artists themselves, unlike often when physical works are sold on, they receive royalties further down the line.

“I sell a skull for $200 and because everything’s on the blockchain, that’s all monitored, so I basically get paid royalties from anything that’s sold of mine further down the line. So if someone’s to sell this piece again for, say, a grand, 10 grand, whatever, I’d always get 10% of that every time it sells for every single piece. It means I get this residual income post selling the piece myself.

“In the physical world, that’s not the case… so this keeps the artist making money.”

Digital artist Pak's fungible collection. Pic: Sotheby's
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More than 3,000 buyers bought Pak’s ‘open edition’ cube units. Pic: Sotheby’s

‘I look at NFTs as an art form’

Max Moore, co-head of Sotheby’s contemporary art day sales in New York, also admits he wasn’t too sure about NFTs at first. But in the past year he started to explore the world, and was put in touch with Pak at the beginning of 2021.

The sale of Pak’s Fungible Collection saw 3,080 unique buyers of 23,598 “open edition” cube units, which achieved $14,026,000 over the course of three days of sales. Two “one-of-one” digital artworks, The Switch and The Pixel, sold for $1.44 million and $1.36 million, with 10 and 12 bidders, respectively.

“I’d been monitoring the NFT market with scepticism since 2018, honestly,” he says. “I was introduced initially to the collection of works called CryptoPunks, and for me visually they didn’t really speak to anything, I guess conceptually there was something about them. But at the time I didn’t pay much attention.

“I luckily, by chance, was put in touch with Pak in early January. I still again was really there to learn. I had no intention or plans of bringing this on to a grand stage at Sotheby’s at the time, but through those conversations with Pak, I started to realise and see that there was a true creative process behind their work. The way that they approached it, each kind of piece had a specific purpose, had a specific meaning, that tied back to to the last and also to the future.

“So for me, it was understanding that there was a true genius and creativity that was coming out of this artist and I quickly realised that there was something here.”

One of the main questions being asked about NFT art is why people are willing to spend large amounts of money – in some cases millions – on art that cannot be put on display in the traditional sense, and can be shared online?

Max says it took him time to understand, too, but he realised that appreciators of NFT art see it in exactly the same way. “They were having that same reaction to the artwork, they were having that same connection with the artwork,” he says. “They didn’t need that physical connection to a physical object. It wasn’t for me to say that, just because I wasn’t connecting with it, because it was different for me, that this couldn’t be the same relationship that I was having myself.

“I quickly realised that there’s a whole world, a whole marketplace of individuals, that have absolutely no interest in physical, tangible objects in the same way that we do, and are completely enamoured by the digital assets. They are usually a younger demographic, I would say, that has made their fortune in cryptocurrencies and have believed in it since the beginning; they’re early adopters from 2012 to 2015, that have bought into the idea of digital assets becoming ingrained within our future society.”

Max says he hopes those who have bought the Pak works will keep hold of them.

I hope that collectors will remain collectors and won’t just immediately start flipping the work. I think that there’s an education from a collector perspective that needs to occur for this market to fully take form and grow, and it can’t just be a subset of the audience that is really responding to the artwork – and there’s a lot of actors in there that are just here for a financial gain. So I think that still needs to strengthen. But a result like this I hope can steer the conversation in that direction.”

The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's "Infinity Mirrored Room - The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away" on display in Los Angeles in 2015. Pic: AP
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Ashley Ramos, from Nifty Gateway, says appreciating NFT art is no different to appreciating other experiental art, such as Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room. Pic: AP

‘You could take a picture of the Mona Lisa. It doesn’t mean you own it’

Ashley Ramos is a senior producer at Nifty Gateway, which collaborated with Sotheby’s on the Pak sale, and also hosted Grimes’ sale. The platform has sold more than £72m of “unique, identifiable, and secure digital art” since it started operations just a year ago, in March 2020.

Even her Zoom backdrop is an NFT (pictured in the Instagram post below), by designer and 3D artist Frank Guzzone, showing how the artworks can be displayed physically on TV screens, should a collector wish.

“I would argue that many people have always loved experiential art, not just something physical or tangible, but experiential art,” she says. “Some would say that [Japanese contemporary artist] Yayoi Kusama is a great example of that. Her infinity rooms, those are experiences, those are not things that you can take home and put on your wall. Or the Mark Rothko room in the Tate Modern, too, that’s an experience. People love going to museums just to take in the art, not to take it home with them.

“[But] I think the common misconception is that you can’t display these in your home, and you can… you can display [NFTs] in your home and you can bring that experience in home should you want to. But I think the vast majority of our consumers, digital native consumers, is that they’re in this not so much for the take away, but what they’re giving back. And that’s what we’re seeing, these record-breaking numbers. Our collectors are coming to the table in a really big way for the sake of supporting artistry and the artists on our platform. And if nothing at all is accomplished but that that’s just a truly beautiful thing.”

How does Nifty Gateway respond to the argument that the works can be easily copied? Well, it’s clearly a question they hear a lot.

“You could take a picture of the Mona Lisa,” says Ashley. “It doesn’t mean that you own it. And I think the reason that everybody knows that you don’t own the Mona Lisa just because you take a picture of it is because it has a social value around who owns it and and that becomes respected. So I think within the respected NFT community, you are aware of who owns it through through their profiles on Nifty Gateway…

“It could be considered a concern – but no more a concern than somebody going to the Louvre and taking a picture of one of those pieces and then saying, ‘I own this. This is mine’.”

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