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Snap election divides UK, fresh warnings for North Korea and America’s trade follies

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Theresa May’s move to hold a snap general election to strengthen her Brexit hand has divided the UK. While the poll will give the UK prime minister an opportunity to win a direct mandate for the first time to be prime minister, critics say it is unnecessary. Supporters see the vote as a chance to strengthen the Conservative party’s majority as it negotiates Britain’s exit from the EU.

The latest polling data show that if the election were held now, the Conservatives would have an 18-point lead. By contrast, the Labour party is expected to fare badly, with some predicting it may no longer be the country’s official opposition.

The markets have been giving their own verdict on the poll: the UK pound has climbed to its highest level in six months, while the FTSE 100 has dipped into negative territory for the year amid fears that a stronger currency could undermine foreign-based revenues for multinational companies.

In the news

Fresh warnings for North Korea
Speaking from the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan, US vice-president Mike Pence has warned that Washington would counter any North Korean attack with an “overwhelming and effective” response. Quite how seriously he will be taken remains to be seen given that a ship the White House last week announced it was sending as a deterrent to waters near North Korea was in fact sailing in the opposite direction, nowhere near the Korean Peninsula. Pressure on Pyongyang is unlikely to yield change unless China stops protecting its unpredictable ally. (Jazeera, Defense News, NYT, FT)

Trucks cross the China-Korea Friendship Bridge into Dandong © AFP

Turkey poll questions
The country’s High Electoral Board is to evaluate complaints and appeals for an annulment of Sunday’s referendum, which saw president Recep Tayyip Erdogan narrowly win approval for sweeping new powers. The narrow margin of the president’s victory has given impetus to opposition politicians, who say they are preparing to challenge the president. (Reuters, FT)

Tycoon breaks silence
Dalian Wanda founder Wang Jianlin has confirmed that Beijing blocked his company’s deal to buy US television production company Dick Clark Productions — and explains what it means for his empire. (FT)

Wining and dining China 
The same day Ivanka Trump entertained President Xi Jinping of China at her dad’s golf resort in Florida earlier this month, her company won provisional approval from Beijing for three new trademarks, in the latest sign of the potential conflicts of interest of the US president and his family. (AP)

Facebook bots and backlash
Executives are using the social network’s annual conference to lure businesses into using the site by deploying AI to enhance how customers communicate with companies. But the site’s reinvention and future vision is being overshadowed by new political challenges, with critics charging that it spreads fake news, creates ideological bubbles and fails to remove offensive content. (FT)

It’s a big day for

The anti-Trump movement
The Georgia election result, where a Democrat whose slogan is “Make Trump Furious” is the frontrunner, could be a bellwether of the anti-Trump tide. (NYT)

UK carworkers
Workers at BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce Motor Cars are due to hold a series of 24-hour strikes at factories across the UK in a dispute about pensions. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.

Food for thought

Europe’s other election
The first round of France’s presidential election is this weekend. Could disillusioned voters in poor suburbs swing the result? Or could whoever wins the closely fought race lack a strong enough mandate to reverse national decline? (FT, Politico)

America’s trade follies
Martin Wolf is no fan of US commerce secretary Wilbur Ross’s “nonsense” trade comments, which “show one can be a billionaire and yet not understand how the economy works, just as one can be an athlete and not understand physiology”. (FT)

The volatility crisis approaches 
What gives with Wall Street’s “fear gauge”? The Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index, or Vix for short, should be reflecting the potential peril for markets — but the gauge’s average level this year is at its lowest point in its 24-year history. A long read on one of the finance industry’s biggest enigmas. (FT) 

Rags to Pokémon riches
The creator of Pokémon Go grew up in extreme poverty in rural China, selling tofu in a hand-drawn cart in minus 30C weather. Now 30-year-old Tatsuo Nomura is the mastermind behind a global social phenomenon. (NAR)

Revolutionary language learning
The New Yorker’s Peter Hessler on how Egypt’s revolution shaped the way he learnt Arabic. (FT)

Video of the day

Wanda chief on Hollywood and football
Wang Jianlin, chairman of Dalian Wanda and China’s richest man, talks to FT editor Lionel Barber about investing in Hollywood, the huge transfer fees in Chinese football and the future of the company’s shopping malls. (FT)

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