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During his visit to the UK, US president Donald Trump has strained Anglo-American ties by openly criticising prime minister Theresa May's plan for Brexit, calling Britain a country "in turmoil" and talking up his friendship with Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and a potential rival to Mrs May. Commentators immediately started talking about the fraying of the transatlantic "special relationship".

This is far from the first time that US and UK politicians have fallen out, writes Lawrence Freedman. Even during the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were on a shared ideological campaign, they had their differences, for example over the Falkland Islands. Still, this time might be different. Lawrence predicts that Britain, a country whose role in the world always depended on the quality of its partnerships with others, now faces an unusually lonely future.

Pilita Clark takes a critical look at Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s weakness for self-promotion, writing that it masks his potential to act as a real force for good.

Tim Harford argues that advances in satellite imagery, data mining and the widespread use of mobile phones is fundamentally changing the nature of economics and will move it from being largely theoretical to an empirical science.

James Kynge delves into China's relatively restrained response to Mr Trump's tariffs and finds that Beijing is seeking to ignite an American backlash, by imposing retaliatory levies on farm products and favouring European companies like BMW and Deutsche Bank with deals designed to inspire envy in the Fortune 500.

Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s unflappable defence minister, found herself in the firing line when Mr Trump complained about the levels of European defense spending. The mother of seven, who oversees 250,000 soldiers and civilians, is the ultimate powerfrau, writes Guy Chazan in a profile.

Best of the week

Tight labour markets are healing the scars of the financial crisis— Sarah O'Connor

‘I will be your Chequers mate!’ Boris Johnson’s other letter to May— Henry Mance

Theresa May now faces the second Battle of Brexit— Robert Shrimsley

Prizes are a powerful spur to innovation and breakthroughs— John Thornhill

Glencore’s Ivan Glasenberg may have taken one gamble too far— David Pilling

Culture clashes loom after a rush of company mergers— Rana Foroohar

Donald Trump creates chaos with his tariffs trade war— Martin Wolf

What you've been saying

Switzerland is putting its immortal soul in danger— Letter from Jacob Bjorheim:

As the US Department of Justice continues its investigation into Glencore over bribery and corruption, David Pilling rightly asserts that Ivan Glasenberg, the company’s risk-taking chief, may have taken one gamble too many (Comment, July 12). Switzerland should not be the safe haven for bullying bankers and any truculent traders. Strong regulatory and supervision structure is warranted. If not, Switzerland will continue to lose the immortal parts of its soul, i.e. its reputation.

Comment by Ron-Ohio on The Cambridge Analytica scandal echoes the financial crisis:

Using a spreadsheet optimisation function on steroids and stolen personal information to cheat for your personal enrichment or take political power to further enable your personal enrichment, were intentional criminal acts. Hiding behind the suggested unpredictable complexity or "new" technology is nothing more than a legal smokescreen. It is simple ridiculous to claim the size of the investments involved over many years were not based on clearly understood strategies with profits and political power the intended results, no matter what laws were broken, no matter what the long-term consequences.

Dawn of a new age of the robber barons— Letter from Guy Wroble:

Janan Ganesh, in “A left turn could be a dead end for the Democrats” (July 12), presents a superficially compelling argument that the Democratic party need only to try to hold on to the centre in order to return to power. He cites the presidential popular vote as indicative of the success of their policies. The problem is that the plutocrats are on the verge of returning America to the “gilded age” of the robber baron capitalists whether or not the Democrats regain control of Congress.

Today's opinion

Person in the News: Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s unflappable defence minister
Under fire from Donald Trump over military spending, the CDU stalwart holds firm

Elon Musk’s weakness for self-promotion masks his potential
The billionaire’s meddling in the Thai cave rescue looks like a narcissistic PR stunt

Beijing hopes for a backlash against Donald Trump’s trade policy
The Chinese are targeting goods made in the US president’s heartlands

Trump lays bare Britain’s ‘special relationship’ delusion
Tensions between London and Washington are nothing new

Undercover Economist: Data impel economists to leave their armchairs at last
Practitioners have traditionally thought more about theory than measuring real life

Skip the fatalism, life’s getting better
Middle age is miserable — but for most it’s a passing phase, say official data

Ingram Pinn illustration of the week: European Tour
Trump meets other Nato leaders and prepares to hold a one-on-one with Putin

FT View

The FT View: Trump’s new kind of transatlantic alliance
The US president is making common cause with Europe’s nationalists

The FT View: Champions League stars bring their talent home
With only one national giant left standing, this is Europe’s World Cup

The Big Read

The Big Read: Conservatives left reeling after a dose of reality on Brexit
Following a week of chaos in Westminster, it is not clear if May’s government will survive — or if any exit deal can pass parliament

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