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With the US and China increasingly seeking to break free of international agreements, middle-sized countries including the UK, France and Japan find themselves facing a dilemma and an opportunity, writes Gideon Rachman. President Donald Trump's emphasis on protectionism poses an active economic threat, and his incipient isolationism suggests the US's security guarantees can no longer be relied upon.

But Gideon suggests that the middle powers should not despair. Instead they should band together to co-ordinate their positions on key issues such as trade, climate change, arms control and peace efforts in the Middle East and Asia. In this way, he writes, they can help preserve the current international order or start building alternative structures to defend liberal values.

Potential pandemic
An outbreak of the Nipah virus in Kerala, which has so far killed 14 people in India, may prove to be a bigger threat to world health than the recent flare up of Ebola that has hit the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Anjana Ahuja explains that world health officials have sprung into action and a vaccine is being deployed in the African case, but there is no known cure or treatment for Nipah and some prior outbreaks have had a 100 per cent death rate.

Opportunity cost
The real price Britain will pay for Brexit is far higher than the direct costs associated with leaving the EU, writes Janan Ganesh in his last opinion column from the UK. (He will start writing from Washington DC in mid-June). A generation of MPs, civil servants and public intellectuals are engaged with one open-ended mission, leaving little room for fixing productivity, building infrastructure and saving the National Health Service.

Italian deadlock
The decision by Italian president Sergio Mattarella to veto the choice of eurosceptic Paolo Savona as finance minister has set up a dangerous conflict in that country, argues Tony Barber. Barred from ruling, the populist League and Five Star parties will likely cast the next election as a fight between popular sovereignty and national self-determination on the one hand, and Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt and their supposed lackeys in the Italian establishment on the other.

Best of the Rest

Irish vote puts an end to the bad old days — Libby Purves in the Times

In silencing Euroscepticism, Italy’s president has gifted its far right — Yanis Varoufakis in the Guardian

The North’s Jim Crow — Andrew W. Kahrl in the New York Times

What you've been saying

Roth railed against the ‘justice agenda’— letter by Mark Wolfgram

Philip Roth always maintained his individualism in opposition to demands for tribal loyalty to “the Jews” or the need to write about sex and relations between men and women in “the proper way”. He demanded that freedom for himself, as the most basic right of being an American, an American writer…..These freedoms are under assault by those who claim to be on the social justice left, as they demand that institutional power be brought to bear upon those that offend.

Comment from nicantonhk on Italy’s populists pull out of bid to form government

Unless the Euro is reformed immediately, there will be even more democratic attrocities like this. The Euro needs immediate reform (starting with either Germany leaving or Germany agreeing to permanent fiscal transfers). Also, the EU and its employees and agents must agree to never interfere in any sovereign states elections or media again. This is simply good practice that a civil service should not play part in black ops against its member states. It is sound governance. The treaties should be amendended forthwith to achieve this aim.

Comment from Swiss in London on Barnier warns Britain to stop playing hide and seek

I can't believe there are still people here who think we could simply walk away from the negotiations and start trading on WTO terms on March 2019. For Christ sake, forget this fantasy once and for all. Even die hard Brexiteers wouldn't want the consequences of doing so. It would be as bad as literally having no fresh food in supermarket shelves as there is no way the UK will be able to build up customs capacity in Dover for 10,000 lorries a day. Our entire food supply chain would break down, both ways.

Today's opinion

The real cost of Brexit is in missed opportunities
Attention has been diverted from fixing healthcare, infrastructure and productivity

Italian deadlock sets stage for fierce battle over the EU
Populists will fight a snap election on the choice between local control and the ECB

We can only tackle epidemics by preparing for the unexpected
Nipah is a less familiar virus than Ebola but may prove a bigger stress test

Mid-sized powers must unite to preserve the world order
France, the UK, Japan and others must join forces as the US and China become erratic

Trust is the new currency in the surreal Venezuelan economy
Hyperinflation under Maduro makes co-operation more valuable than cash

Inside Business: For richer or poorer: why bank M&A is back after 10 quiet years
Defensive tactics and the need for IT investment are behind rising deal appetite

The Big Read: ‘Trump effect’ weighs on US-led bid to host 2026 World Cup
Fifa officials say resentment of America’s president is helping Morocco’s challenge gain support

World Class, by Andreas Schleicher
A data-driven approach to educational reform

The perils of our quest for perfection
Modern managers often act more like coaches, hoping to take us into ‘the zone’

Central banks’ loose talk about ‘symmetry’ can be dangerous
After an under-shoot, policymakers are meant to bring inflation back to target

Inside Business: The Jabberwocky world of bitcoin
Clear Leisure, a minnow with a technicolour history, is digging into cryptocurrency mining

FT View

FT View: Too many questions remain over London’s Grenfell Tower fire
The launch of the inquiry is just the first of many steps towards justice

FT View: Donald Trump strains the art of the deal
A negotiating style honed in real estate may not work in diplomacy

The Big Read

The Big Read: ‘Trump effect’ weighs on US-led bid to host 2026 World Cup
Fifa officials say resentment of America’s president is helping Morocco’s challenge gain support

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