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The EU is on course for a confrontation with Poland. Its Law and Justice government has alarmed Brussels with recent moves to take control of the state broadcaster and a new set of laws that clears the way for stacking the courts. In return, the European Commission (after much agonising) has started a formal procedure that, for the first time, could result in Poland losing its voting rights. A clash is on the horizon.
Gideon Rachman argues in his column that this collision between Poland and the EU is shaping up as an existential test for the bloc as a whole. It is not only about testing the strength of populism in Europe, but elsewhere too. With America retreating from the world stage, Europe is the final bastion of liberal democracy. Yet although the stakes are high, a strategic and political compromise is still possible.
The tougher test for the EU’s principles, however, is more likely to be Hungary. Gideon points out that Viktor Orban’s government has gone further than its Polish counterpart. So far, there has been no action from the commission — which may have been too focused on Poland, or other countries. Gideon notes that Mr Orban’s party remains a member of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament. How Brussels responds to both countries will have serious implications for the EU’s future. Both pose a challenge to its image as a community of democratic, law-abiding nations. Dodging populist challenges now will only haunt it later.
Off location: Fred Studemann puts up a sterling defence of Battersea and Nine Elms, areas of London disdained by Donald Trump. Although once undesirable neighbourhoods, these areas immediately south of the River Thames have undergone significant gentrification and regeneration. The US president could not be more off in his judgment.
Macron and May: As Emmanuel Macron prepares to visit London this week, Janan Ganesh argues that Britain and France rarely prosper and flounder at the same time.
Collapse of Carillion: Our FT View argues that the collapse of the British construction firm is not a problem purely for the private sector. Like banks, government contractors need a clear resolution regime from the government.
Best of the rest
What ultimately went wrong at Carillion? — Ian King at Sky News
The Battle Line for Western Values Runs Through Poland — by Charles Kupchan in the New York Times on the EU’s landmark actions against Poland, a country struggling against a giant wave of populist sentiment
Grayling’s Failings — leader from The Times on misjudgments by the British transport secretary
Germany’s Coalition of the Losing — Wall Street Journal editorial board
Is There Life After Liberalism? — Ross Douthat in The New York Times
What you’ve been saying
Sitting at table where rules are made is a wise move — letter from Robert Cooper, London, UK
“Sir, Gideon Rachman is right (‘Trump and Brexit are no longer twins’, January 9) that the UK government tells us often it supports the idea of a rules-governed world. It is mysterious, therefore, that in the context of the EU, it regards the European Court of Justice as incompatible with national sovereignty. If you want international rules, you need international courts to interpret them.”
Comment by WoodyAcorn on Alan Beattie’s recent Big Read, Brexit and agriculture: British farmers to plough new course
“Good-morning, good-morning!” the General said
When we met him last week on our way to the line.
Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ‘em dead,
And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine.
“He’s a cheery old card,” grunted Harry to Jack
As they slogged up to Arras with rifle and pack.
But he did for them both by his plan of attack”.
Two ways to preserve the Lords’ reviewing power — letter from Clark McGinn, Middlesex, UK
“Sir, May I suggest two additions to Nicholas Boyle’s blueprint for an indirectly elected upper house (Letters, January 11)? To preserve the reviewing power of the House, the percentage of seats awarded to parties should be based not solely on the closest general election but on an average of it and the previous general election and all council elections in between them. Secondly, the tranche apportioned to voting cross-benchers should be the difference between the average election turnout and 100 per cent.”
Emmanuel Macron serves Theresa May a reminder of past glories
For all their cordiality, Britain and France tend not to thrive at the same time
‘Frankenstein’ still speaks to very modern fears
Contemporary anxieties about gene-editing find an echo in Mary Shelley’s gothic novel
Instant Insight: A grand coalition in Germany will not paper over the cracks
The country’s politics are shedding their reputation for being dull and predictable
Curbing the ‘curse of bigness’ is a political priority
Unchallenged incumbency in markets is no good for consumers
Smart Money: Angola woes risk sharpening focus on Africa’s debt
A potential debt restructuring is likely to prompt questions about sub-Saharan region
Europe’s biggest test will come in Poland
The country has become a proving ground for the strength of populism across the west
Free Lunch: Rethinking macroeconomics
The deepest effort to date to account for how economics failed us in the crisis
Boko Haram, by Alexander Thurston
Detailed analysis of how a local protest in Nigeria became a brutal jihadi group
A power shift in the Middle East
The opening of the Zohr gasfield is a big opportunity for Egypt’s energy ambitions
FT View: Emerging markets seek to forge their own paths
Assets and economies have done well despite higher US interest rates
FT View: Carillion’s private failure is a public problem
Government contractors, like banks, need a clear resolution regime
The Big Read
The Big Read: George Soros fights back against populist foes
Once a symbol of the spread of democracy in Europe, the billionaire’s foundation is now the target of resurgent nationalism