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The days pass by and still there is no functioning government in Germany. Two months since the federal elections failed to produce a working majority for Angela Merkel (or anyone else), some fundamental questions remain unanswered following the collapse of the Jamaica coalition talks. Can Ms Merkel form a minority government? Do any of the other parties want to support her? Are more elections on the horizon? Or should she try to form another coalition government with the SPD?

Philip Stephens argues in his column that although another grand coalition remains possible, it would mark the end of Ms Merkel. The indecisive election results have sapped the chancellor’s enthusiasm for governing, he reports, and her party, the CDU, fears that another round of elections would not result in a drastically different outcome. The chatter in Berlin is therefore all about Ms Merkel’s future and how much longer she can last.

If another coalition does come together, Philip says that the likely partners will be less worried about Ms Merkel’s influence (as was the case for the Free Democrats during the recent talks). She is now unlikely to fight another election and her party is already thinking about who comes next. Whatever emerges from this uncertainty, it increasingly seems that the age of Merkel is drawing to a close. It marks a significant moment for a political leader who has shaped and come to define her country.

Special relationship: Robert Shrimsley imagines the itinerary for Donald Trump’s proposed state visit to the UK. No easy task, given how many big figures in British life are keen to avoid the US president.

Don’t count the bitcoins too soon: Nobel-prize winning economist Jean Tirole says caution should be exercised when currencies are concerned. Although technological advances can lead to greater efficiency, he warns that we shouldn’t ignore economic fundamentals. 

Debunking Global Britain: Martin Wolf digs into a report about the future trading prospects for the UK after Brexit and warns that lessons from the 19th century do not apply in 2017. In an increasingly globalised world, he argues that bunkum about Britain setting trading rules should be ignored.

Best of the rest

A Failure of the Network News Star System — Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times

Maximum Pressure on North Korea — The Wall Street Journal editorial board

We’re still not serious about a ladder for the working class — Philip Collins in The Times

Britain needs to help Ireland’s young and inexperienced leader back down from his impossible Brexit demands — Nick Timothy in The Telegraph

Rex Tillerson’s Slow-Motion Exit — Krishnadev Calamur in The Atlantic

What you’ve been saying 

The damaging obsession with word equality— letter from Malcolm Orton in Essex

“While English has done away with masculine and feminine inanimate objects, to a lesser extent, it also suffers from this “equality issue”: he/she or, the even uglier (s)he when referring (in the nominative) to a generic person. English can get round this by using “one” but “on” in French does not quite have the same subtlety. Having said that, I fail to understand why, in 2017, the gender of the person who serves me, manages me or hosts a party for me is relevant. Do we need to distinguish between waiter/waitress, manager/manageress, host/hostess? Surely their genitals play no part in their ability to do the job?”

Comment by European_Observer on Philip Stephen’s recent op-ed, A coalition will be the end of Angela Merkel

“If you go back to the wave of refugees/immigrants of the early 1990s (from the ex-Yugoslavia and the former Soviet Union) you will find that they too had a rough time getting established in Germany. They too faced many of the objections raised to more recent migrants, cultural differences, lack of German language skills, etc. Today, 25 years on, they are mostly seen as model citizens.”

Italy faces lost decades if the left does not change— letter from Alessio Antonelli, Mayor of Cascina, 2011-2016, Italy

“Yes, Cascina is a mirror of Italy. So this reinforces my understanding that if the people of the left do not begin to think in a different way, coherently with the values that have always distinguished us, our country will go back decades. Matteo Renzi, the PD leader and former prime minister, spoke of being a scrapper, but he only substituted one political class with another — and his was worse.”

Today’s opinion

Six impossible notions about ‘global Britain’ The UK is no longer its 19th-century self, but a second-rank power in decline

Larry Summers’ blog: A modest proposal part II: the debate over US tax reform

Donald Trump’s UK state visit — a few teensy tweaks to the itinerary A top secret Foreign Office memo of the president’s plans has been fictionally leaked to the FT …

How Donald Trump uses tribal loyalty to drive economic optimism Democrats beware: it might not be ‘the economy, stupid’ after all

Free Lunch: Central Europe’s mixed economic messages The material roots of the region’s disenchantment after transition

A coalition will be the end of Angela Merkel Surpluses and a pro-EU agenda could tempt the SPD as the Merkel era nears its close

Instant Insight: Theresa May’s difficult decision on Donald Trump The UK prime minister must decide whether to cancel his state visit next year, writes Sebastian Payne

The Big Read: After 12 years of leadership, Merkel fatigue spreads in Germany Disillusion with the chancellor is on the rise, even in her own party. But with few challengers, she is still likely to lead the new government

There are many reasons to be cautious about bitcoin The craze for initial coin offerings ignores financial fundamentals

FT View

FT View: The UK’s new plan to fix the creaking railways It is not clear government has the answers to problems long foretold

FT View: Indian democracy cries out for a real opposition The Congress party risks becoming a hereditary anachronism

The Big Read

The Big Read: After 12 years of leadership, Merkel fatigue spreads in Germany Disillusion with the chancellor is on the rise, even in her own party. But with few challengers, she is still likely to lead the new government

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