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As UK prime minister Theresa May faces a make or break vote on Brexit on Tuesday, her dogged determination and self-proclaimed dedication to public service have become the defining feature of her two-year premiership, writes George Parker in a profile. The 62-year-old vicar’s daughter has ploughed on, seeking to secure reasonable terms for Britain's departure from the EU even as she draws brickbats from both ardent Brexiters and die-hard Remainers.

Once derided as the "Maybot" for her robotic answers to personal questions, she now draws sympathy – and even admiration – from those who cannot help but be impressed by her perseverance. Her grip on power, tenuous since the 2017 election stripped her of a Tory majority, may slip next week – but do not count her out yet. As one Conservative told George, "She hangs on because the party can’t agree on a replacement.”

Miranda Green delves into the problem of school children who are not yet toilet trained and discovers a world of £2,000 live-in “potty whisperers”.

Jonathan Derbyshire explores the opposition to a proposal to rename the Kaliningrad airport after Immanuel Kant and asks why the mere thought of the philosopher stirs Russian nationalism.

James Kynge argues that the arrest this week of a Huawei executive has echoes of a spy thriller. The warnings about the Chinese tech group from western spymasters create a cold war atmosphere.

Tim Harford writes that technology can be the friend of creativity. Most ideas used to be shut down early, but digitisation allows many to survive.

Camilla Cavendish feels the winds of change as the UK parliament prepares to take over the Brexit process. Many MPs feel they cannot vote to make Britain poorer.

Best of the week

Extremism rises as experience of its results fades– Janan Ganesh

The Brexit divide will be politics’ new cold war– Robert Shrimsley

Burden of tackling climate change must be shared– Martin Sandbu

Wild swings hinge on a different kind of leverage– Gillian Tett 

Mike Lynch case highlights UK accounting shortcomings– Brooke Masters

Europe’s security community braced for Brexit wounds– Roula Khalaf

Barricades in Paris make bankers think again– Henry Mance

What you've been saying

Insurance, risk and controllable behaviours: letter from Adrian Gore, Sandton, South Africa

John Gapper, in “ Life insurance should not get too personal” raises the concern that if technology can be used to completely personalise insurance, then the concept of risk pooling and cross-subsidisation will break down. This is a legitimate concern but it is important to differentiate between risks that are based on a person’s underlying risk factors and pre-existing conditions, versus risks created by lifestyle choices people make. We should be pooling risk for uncontrollable risks and pre-existing conditions, but not for controllable behaviours.

In response to " Wild market swings hinge on a different kind of leverage", Grizzlybear says:

The flip side of the coin is that this is a testament to the 'new regime' where the stock markets are able to function 'normally' despite the 'headline' turmoil caused by political tensions, global macro uncertainty and central bank activity (or lack thereof).

PAs have a vital role in the modern workplace: letter from David Morel, London, UK

Investment fund chief Yngve Slyngstad may feel he has no need for a personal assistant, as noted in your article " PAs are a delightful luxury", but this could be having a negative impact on his performance and wellbeing. Recent research among executives found that those without a PA not only work nine hours a week longer than those with this support, but three-quarters of bosses say that having a PA helps them manage their stress levels and mental wellbeing. 

Today's opinion

Instant Insight: With AKK’s victory, the post-Merkel era begins
The newly elected CDU leader will seek to put her own stamp on the party

Lex: Berkeley Group: Brex and mortar
Housebuilder’s forward sales may be down, but markets had been braced for worse

FT Alphaville: “Cryptoassets” are crashing again. Is it time to start calling them cryptoliabilities instead?

How to read more in 2019
Everyone compains that they don’t have time to read. But you might be able to squeeze more books into your life than you think

Lex: Kotak Mahindra/Berkshire Hathaway: Warren affairs
Buffett’s interest offers elegant solution to tricky stand-off with India’s central bank

Spy thriller echoes in Huawei power struggle
Arrest of executive and warnings from western spymasters creates cold war atmosphere

On Wall Street: Markets predictions: 2019 to bring new level of uncertainty
Strategists give forecasts on what could happen to equities, gold and securitised products

Lex: Palm oil/orangutans: swing producers
Green consumers must embrace alternative oils like algae to save the great ape

beyondbrics: Foreign investors should help Zimbabwe shed pariah status
A joint foreign and domestic task force would help clear a path to financial stability

Twerking on it: why Europe is less progressive than it seems
The debacle over Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg exposes that, despite what the rest of the world thinks, Europe still has a long way to go

Inside London: GSK’s doses of corporate action this week bring no cure
Prognosis is for further financial pain for chronic GlaxoSmithKline shareholders

Lex: Snap: specs bomb
An unfocused strategy on video-recording sunglasses will not help raise profits

Parliament prepares as power drains away from Theresa May
Many of the prime minister’s colleagues feel they cannot vote to make Britain poorer

Feathers, foils and facials — the festive beauty rules
If you want to make a dramatic hair look for a party, the up-do is the only do to do

FT Magazine: The best sweet and strong wines for the festive season
‘Clean, fresh and bone dry with nuances of chamomile, walnuts and blue cheese’

The mere thought of Kant stirs Russian nationalism
A proposal to rename the Kaliningrad airport after the philosopher hits opposition

Humphry Repton: Britain’s first landscape gardener
Books depicting ‘before’ and ‘after’ views helped reshape Britain’s landscape

Free Lunch: Winning the culture war over climate change
Why carbon tax-and-dividend is a winning policy

FT Alphaville: Uncertainty is killing growth

Votes for women, a welfare crisis and today’s tax culture
We can expect more stealth charges on wealth like the new probate fees

Undercover Economist: Technology can be the friend of creativity
Most ideas used to be shut down early, but digitisation allows many to survive

The Final Salary Countdown: a soundtrack for the pensions industry
Could music strike the right note to encourage reluctant retirement savers?

Ingram Pinn’s illustration of the week: Trade tensions
US actions threaten fragile truce amid global stocks sell-off

The Top Line: In Dow he trusts: Trump’s reassuring faith in stocks
He may not admit it but the president has to find any decline in prices worrisome

FTfm: Going green is not that easy for electric vehicles

Markets Insight: Germany’s demerger mania requires tougher scrutiny
Corporate slicing and dicing will not necessarily resolve deep-rooted problems

City Insider: Makram Azar goes media shy
Former Barclays exec who attended Presidents Club dinner registers a financial start-up

Lombard: Tesco fraud case crumbles as SFO tries to have cake and eat it
Acquittal of two former directors is a serious blow to agency’s dual-track strategy

FT View

The FT View: Brexit’s twists and turns are baffling the markets
Assumptions that no-deal exit risks have receded may be misguided

The FT View: Mike Pompeo’s threadbare defence of US leadership
The Trump Administration has much to learn from the presidency of George HW Bush

The Big Read

The Big Read: ‘Look at me, I exist’: French protesters send message to Macron
‘Gilets jaunes’ demonstrations have become a rallying point for a legion of disaffected workers

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