Listen to this article
This article is from today’s FT Opinion email. Sign up to receive a daily digest of the big issues straight to your inbox.
Despite the best efforts of Irish politicians including Enda Kenny, the potential impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland and the Republic barely figured in UK public discourse ahead of the 2016 referendum. But the issue of moving goods across that border has taken centre stage with the publication this week of the EU's draft protocol for Ireland. The results have been explosive.
Tony Connelly writes that Anglo-Irish relations are worse than they have been in 25 years. Dublin believes the EU 27's position provides for a generous interpretation of north-south co-operation, with references to an “all-island economy”. London counters that alignment between the two parts of Ireland, if absolutely necessary, should be piecemeal.
Winnie the Pooh: Chinese internet users were blocked from making references to AA Milne's anthropomorphic bear this week, in the aftermath of the country's decision to scrap presidential term limits, paving the way for Xi Jinping, the incumbent, to remain in office for life. Pictures of the stuffed toy — who shares a similar body profile with the Chinese leader — clutching a jar of honey drew the censors' particular ire. James Kynge explores why the country is at once so boastful about its success under authoritarian rule and so sensitive to anyone who suggests that personal enrichment might be playing a role.
Slip sliding away: Bostonian Robert Armstrong takes aim at London's inability to deal with a few inches of snow. While this week's UK storms drew his particular ire, his takedown of lousy driving and poor shoveling will resonate with anyone who has spent a winter in Washington or any other city that has only an occasional relationship with the white stuff.
White lies: On Tuesday, White House communications director Hope Hicks admitted she had stretched the truth as part of her duties as Donald Trump's campaign manager. On Wednesday, she said she was stepping down. Courtney Weaver examines the impact of the 29-year-old actress manqué, who was described as Mr Trump's "real daughter" in Michael Wolff's recent expose about life in the White House.
Best of the week
Why Jay Powell’s Fed taper is not causing tantrums by Gillian Tett
Anbang arrest demonstrates Beijing’s hostility to business by Jamil Anderlini
Bank bonus caps could do wonders for gender equality by Brooke Masters
Gucci success shows the value of multibrands by John Gapper
Narendra Modi’s jobs claim proves a political hot pakora by Amy Kazmin
Europe’s centre left has lost voters’ trust by Tony Barber
Off-piste fun lures younger skiers away from the Alpine slopes by Roula Khalaf
What you've been saying
Major’s peace process fears resonate strongly with many people— letter from David O’Flanagan
History is replete with examples where the Irish question, mishandled at Westminster, has had significant adverse consequences in both our islands. Playing it as a pawn in Tory infighting on Brexit is highly inadvisable. MP Tom Tugendhat is so right when he says the peace process, so hard won, cannot be sacrificed in the Brexit process. Let us hope he and Sir John Major (whose sage advice on Brexit more generally should be listened to) will bring sense to some of the Conservative hardliners who seem oblivious to the lessons of history.
Comment from Marc on Case for increased UK public spending is overwhelming
Never fails to amaze me how people think about this topic. The relevance of government spending to the deficit is whether it is a productive use of money. If there were some R&D project that the private sector won't undertake which has astronomical returns or if investments were undertaken in education that radically improves the quality of the future workforce for a relative pittance, that will increase the future productive capacity of the country and will more than pay for itself (in terms of future debt to GDP which is what matters). Unfortunately, if you invest in aspects of the NHS/LTC for the elderly, it probably doesn't. The blanket assumption that more government spending is bad is like telling our corporations that borrowing money to invest in their business is categorically bad. It depends on the situation/returns.
Scrappage scheme would be impossibly expensive— letter from Ian Gordon
To make it economically possible for me to replace my now nine-year-old car with a similar age example of the nearest available petrol equivalent (at present there are no pure electric or hybrid cars with the capabilities I need), the scrappage fee would need to be somewhere in the region of five to eight times the forecourt value of the car, which is significantly more than an order of magnitude larger than the value of the last scrappage scheme I can remember. This is partly due to changes in my personal financial circumstances since I bought the car a few years ago, and partly down to there simply not being a pure petrol car on the market of a similar age with the same abilities and in anything close to the same cost class.
As Brexit approaches, the gulf between Britain and Ireland widens
Dublin feels patronised, while London suspects the Irish of double-dealing
Theresa May’s road to Brexit: FT commentators on the speech
The UK prime minister has outlined her aims for the UK’s future relationship with the EU
Person in the News: Hope Hicks, the White House aide snared by white lies
The press chief has been by Donald Trump’s side for the past three years
FT Collections: China: Xi Jinping and his empire
Xi will hold power indefinitely. What does this mean for the country and the world?
Xi Jinping needs Chinese history to be on his side
The leader is vulnerable to his belief in the superiority of Beijing’s top-down polity
Free Lunch: Do we still need community banks?
As market failures evolve, so must lending institutions
Sridevi Kapoor, Bollywood actress, 1963-2018
India’s film star with the pulling power to carry a movie alone
Britain’s sorry excuse for snowflakes
The UK’s failure to prepare for snow is an expression of dogged British practicality
Here’s the only thing I don’t like about Isas
Inheritance tax status of the accounts is a worry — but there’s a workaround
Undercover Economist: Referendums break democracies so best to avoid them
Yes/No votes give the snake-oil peddlers an edge and hold nobody accountable
FT View: Theresa May bows to inevitable hard choices on Brexit The UK prime minister’s speech is enough to move talks forward
FT View: Donald Trump’s steel tariffs flirt with a global trade war The US president puts the rules-based global trading system in peril
FT View: Italy’s post-poll future will gnaw at the EU core This Sunday’s general election provides cause for concern, but not panic
The Big Read
The Big Read: Sky without limits: the battle for the broadcasting powerhouse The group founded by Rupert Murdoch is at the centre of a flurry of deals by companies trying to keep up with Netflix and Amazon