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So how is Brexit working out? At best, you could say that the outlines of an agreement between Britain and the EU are visible on the horizon. If everyone holds their nerve, a sensible exit is still possible. But at worst, you could argue that the negotiations are at an impasse — the views of London and Brussels are further apart than ever and it is only a matter of time before the talks collapse and both sides face the prospect of a chaotic Brexit.
The reality is somewhere in between: there are still significant differences between the two sides, but a calm approach from both parties could still deliver a workable agreement. Philip Stephens digs into the state of Brexit in his column, looking at the administrative complexities involved in the UK’s departure. Although the triggering of Article 50 puts a two-year limit on the negotiations, he argues they are simply too complicated to complete in that time frame and might be extended. And if the deadline is extended, will the process ever end? Will late Brexit eventually turn into no Brexit at all?
For Brexit not to occur, two things would need to happen. First, public opinion would need to turn around so MPs can argue that the “will of the people” has changed and a rethink of the current trajectory is required. Second, halting the current process by revoking Article 50 would require at least some Conservative MPs to vote against the government. The Tories are now the party of Brexit and its leadership will probably stick with the project it is responsible for. In such febrile times though, only a fool would predict confidently that Brexit will be late, on time or perpetually in stasis.
Blue Marxists: Robert Shrimsley compares the behaviour of some Brexiters to Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party. The Conservatives often decry the threat the opposition party poses to core British values. Robert argues persuasively that the real Marxist revolutionaries are found in the government.
Power imbalances: Anne-Marie Slaughter says the fall of Harvey Weinstein is a milestone in the march towards equality. The best way to ensure the steady decline of sexual harassment, she says, is to ensure young men are educated to treat young women equally.
Google vs the EU: Gary Reback argues in an opinion piece that the European Commission has been outwitted by Google once more. The Big Tech companies are more nimble than the anti-trust investigators, who are moving too slowly and lack the powers to improve competition.
Best of the rest
The Family That Built an Empire of Pain — Patrick Radden Keefe in The New Yorker
I spent a year researching why working-class Welsh people in the Valleys voted for Brexit, and this is what I found — Roger Scully in The Independent
The Real Reason for Republicans’ Silence on Donald Trump — New York Times editorial
Don’t blame Iain Duncan Smith for the Universal Credit tragedy — Mary Wakefield in The Spectator
Politicians don’t want to talk about the educational gap that really matters — Stephen Bush for the i paper
What you’ve been saying
I guess my module puts me firmly on the hit list — letter from Prof Costas Milas in Liverpool.
“I am one of the very lucky and privileged professors who teach Brexit issues in the UK. This, I guess, puts me firmly on the so-called hit list. Despite this, I am pleased to report back to Mr Heaton-Harris that I have introduced during the current academic year 2017-18 a brand new third-year optional module at Liverpool University under the title “Financial Crises and Defaults”. For interested MPs as well as non-MPs, module related information can be found here. The module, possibly due to Brexit-related material, has been so popular with students that I took the (sad) decision to cap the student numbers.”
Comment from Greg, abridged from Seneca, on Philip Stephen’s piece There are alternatives: late Brexit or no Brexit
“The new motto of the British kingdom should be: Errare humanum est, [sed in errare] perseverare diabolicum!”
Any democracy has the equivalent of Article 155 — letter from Francisco de Borja Lasheras in Madrid
“Your description of Article 155 of the Spanish constitution as “the nuclear option” somewhat trivialises nuclear weapons and their victims, past and potential. All democratic constitutions envisage similar provisions (for example Article 37 of Germany’s Fundamental Law, Italy’s Article 126, Austria’s Article 100, and so on) when regional authorities grossly flout the constitutional framework and endanger the common interest. Britain has also suspended the autonomy of Northern Ireland without, to my recollection, your newspaper describing it as a nuclear option. As your report recognises, Article 155 enjoys cross-party support: indeed, of about two-thirds of the Spanish parliament and vast segments of the opposition in Catalonia too.”
Gillian Tett: The US visa-for-sale scheme is set to stagger on The programme is a symbol of the unintended consequences of badly drafted government rules
Google outwits the European Commission once again Why the EU will never succeed in reining in the power of America’s big tech companies
Robert Shrimsley: The Blue Marxists posing a threat to British values Democracy is often inconvenient for those in power, but it is meant to be
Free Lunch: Wanted: a tax system fit for purpose Don’t think the problem of multinationals’ profits is only about Big Tech
Anne-Marie Slaughter: Sexual harassment is rooted in power imbalances The Weinstein revelations are a milestone in the slow march towards change
Philip Stephens: There are alternatives: late Brexit or no Brexit Two years was never going to be long enough to repatriate responsibilities
FT View: A populist tycoon takes power in the Czech Republic The EU must look out for further illiberal backsliding in central Europe
FT View: The European Central Bank maintains its skilful balancing act Scaling back quantitative easing must not be an irrevocable move
The Big Read
The Big Read: Inside China’s secret ‘magic weapon’ for worldwide influence Xi is quietly ramping up a Communist party department to expand Beijing’s soft power