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Inside out

Back page gossip from the 17 November issue of Research Europe

Motes and beams Eurosceptic British MEP Nigel Farage responded to Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s renewed push for a European army by saying it had been “Juncker’s plan all along to downgrade Nato and push for [an] EU army” and that this was a “foolish move”. This from the man who supported the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, who has said he might not step in to defend Nato members. Foolishness indeed.

Frozen out Meanwhile, the Finnish government gave Trump the cold shoulder when prime minister Juha Sipilä extended his congratulations to vice-president-elect Mike Pence without so much as a nod to the future president. What could Sipilä possibly have seen in Trump’s campaign that would warrant such a brush-off? 

Humble beginnings At a Parliament meeting on the circular economy, Jyrki Katainen, the European Commission’s vice-president for jobs and growth, revealed that he has an unexpected reason for being keen on ever-taller buildings being made from wood, rather than concrete and steel. “I was born in the middle of the forest, and I feel sympathy for wood buildings,” the Finn said. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.

Moving pictures At another Parliament meeting, Austrian MEP Eugen Freund wanted to show a video of a recent trip he made to Iter, the nuclear fusion energy project in the south of France, which is one of the world’s most ambitious technological undertakings. Sadly, he reported that he was unable to do so because the Parliament building is itself not sophisticated enough to enable videos to be played. Maybe something else to aim for by 2035, when Iter is due to be up and running? 

Tricky treats The European Court of Justice ruled this month that the Rubik’s Cube should not be granted trademark protection based on its shape. Following a similar defeat for KitKat chocolate bars in January, will Toblerone apply for new protection following its unpopular decision to change the distinctive shape of its triangles? Given that its existing international trademark is registered in the UK, how will Brexit affect this? The fallout never ends.

Fortress Britain On the theme of Brexit and falling out, a UK trade visit to India led by prime minister Theresa May was supposed to be a chance for the UK to demonstrate its openness to the world as it prepares to leave the EU. Keith Burnett, the vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, refused to toe the government line on his return, however, saying that he had been left “truly ashamed” at May’s hardline stance on visas for Indian students coming to the UK. “Other countries are rubbing their hands with glee at our stupidity,” he lamented.

This article also appeared in Research Europe