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The heads of the Commonwealth governments are meeting in London this week for their biennial summit. Top of the agenda is who will succeed Queen Elizabeth II as head of the organisation (hint: probably Prince Charles, her son). For Britain, however, the 2018 summit has a particular significance, coming less than 12 months before the country exits the EU. The UK is keen to talk trade and show how Brexit does not mean Britain is turning inwards.
In the latest in our head to head series, Allie Renison of the Institute of Directors and Peter Mandelson, former UK cabinet minister and EU commissioner, debate whether the UK’s trading future lies with the Commonwealth. Allie argues that it is not a binary choice and Brexit Britain can strike trade agreements with both the Commonwealth and the EU. Peter on the other hand, does not think the world is waiting for Britain’s “Empire 2.0” and considers that bilateral deals within the Commonwealth will be hard to negotiate.
Although Britain’s trading ambitions are not top of the agenda for most at the 2018 summit, Theresa May’s government will be doing its utmost to use the summit as proof of how the UK is re-connecting with its older partners. Only once Britain has exited the bloc and gets down to the nitty gritty of negotiating these trade deals will we find out how welcome these overtures are.
Martin Wolf’s Big Picture: The first installment of our new podcast series is out this morning. The FT’s chief economics commentator explores the crisis of democratic capitalism, featuring interviews and discussions with policy experts. Listen and subscribe here.
Farewell Martin Sorrell: As WPP chief executive makes a quiet exit, Andrew Hill reflects on one of the advertising industry’s most tenacious and outspoken voices. He thinks that Sir Martin’s legacy will be decided by whether the conglomerate can stick together without him.
Macron vs Merkel: Wolfgang Münchau argues in his latest column that Paris and Berlin are no longer natural allies. Whether it is on military action or reforming the eurozone, the French president’s objectives are not in line with the German chancellor’s.
Solution for Syria: Our FT View says that bombing Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons facilities over the weekend was the right thing to do, but that the west is sorely lacking a proper plan for how to end the civil war. The focus now should be persuading Vladimir Putin that Mr Assad has to go. Otherwise, Syria will remain in peril.
Best of the rest
Paul Ryan, Party Man — Ross Douthat in The New York Times
Republicans Need Artists, Not Economists — Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal
Syria has paid a terrible price for the west’s disastrous policy of doing nothing — Andrew Rawnsley in The Observer
Michael Cohen and the End Stage of the Trump Presidency — Adam Davidson in The New Yorker
Jeremy Corbyn dangles freebies in return for kids’ souls — Sarah Baxter in The Times
What you’ve been saying
Democratic campaign used Facebook data too — letter from Rodney Atkinson
Much has been made of the use of Facebook data that might have aided the Trump campaign. Not reported was the admission by a President Obama staffer, Carol Davidsen, that the Democratic campaign of 2012 had been able to “suck out the whole social graphic” for electoral purposes. Facebook staff had “come to the office and were candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side”. Facebook subsequently shut off the feature that allowed access to that data. But as the Obama staffer acknowledged, Facebook “can’t take it back” and the Republicans “will not get that information”. Surely this is one of the greatest scandals in the history of data use for political purposes, not to mention data collection and electoral law. Only a politically biased press would not be raising this now.
Comment from Sagesse on The west’s great museums should return their looted treasures
I look forward to the Louvre being emptied of the mass of art looted by Napoleon from Venice and the rest of Italy. Or is that not what Macron is suggesting? As for the Benin bronzes, the largest number were sold to museums in Germany where they still are. Are they loot too? Where does this end?
Grand Old Duke of Washington must march back down the hill — letter from Bernard Hoekman and others
Donald Trump’s trade policy makes him look like the Grand Old Duke of York. He marches his troops up the hill, then down the hill, and then neither up nor down. He plunges into protectionist declarations and then retreats, cycles and ends up doing little besides fulminating, destabilising financial markets, and elevating business uncertainty.
Head to Head: Can the Commonwealth provide Britain’s trading future?
Two experts debate how best to develop a more global UK after Brexit
The mystery of the eurozone slowdown
After spurt last year the economy has suddenly fallen behind the rest of the world
Instant Insight: Martin Sorrell’s legacy will be judged by WPP’s durability
The exit of advertising’s most successful conglomerateur will prompt uncertainty
Fintech in the US is stymied by old-fashioned regulators
Tech companies could revolutionise consumer finance, but US laws prevent disruption
Germany is frustrating Emmanuel Macron’s grand ambitions
The reality is that Paris and Berlin are no longer natural allies
FT View: Trans-Pacific trade pact was stronger with the US
Other parties are rightly cautious about Trump’s unexpected desire to rejoin
FT View: Bombing Syria will not provide a lasting solution
Washington was right to intervene, but it sorely lacks a proper plan
The Big Read
The Big Read: Nafta: Why the US car industry is trapped in Trump’s trade crossfire
The Toyota Tundra looks every inch the all-American truck, but even it risks falling foul of rules touted by the Trump administration