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Phase one of the Brexit negotiations is nearing completion. At an EU summit in Brussels next week, the EU27 will either decide that “sufficient progress” has been made to commence talks on the UK’s future relationship with the bloc. Or the stalemate will continue and the British negotiators will possibly walk out and ramp up preparations for a “no deal” exit. The stakes are high — particularly given the uncertainties about the Irish border — but all parties are keen to move the process forward.

If the UK does move to phase two, can it avoid the mistakes made so far? Philip Stephens looks at what he calls the “great bonfire of delusions” in his column and three hard truths for British negotiators. First is the realisation that Brexit is not a balanced negotiation, echoing Pascal Lamy’s view that this exit process is about managing a problem. Second is that Westminster still has not grasped how the EU works (although the same can be said of the EU’s view of the UK). You are either in, or you are out. And too many British politicians put forward ideas that are not acceptable to the EU.

The final lesson from phase one, Philip writes, is the reconciliation of the Brexit realities with the splintered politics of Westminster. The vote to leave the bloc was a populist cry from parts of the country that felt forgotten and ignored. Delivering it through conventional political means was always going to be tricky but the Conservative government has done little to lay the groundwork for compromises to date. It would do well to begin thinking about what it has to sell to the electorate next.

© Ingram Pinn

Centrist dads: Miranda Green looks at the flurry of new parties in the political centre ground and asks why none of them have taken flight. It might be a lack of proper organisation or a defined mission, but expect more movements to emerge as the populist convulsions continue.

Self-driving finance: Gillan Tett digs into financing by algorithm and wonders whether regulators can cope with the pace of technological change. If machine learning and artificial intelligence goes wrong, it's not clear who is responsible for the damage.

Border alignment: Chris Giles says to look at the Swiss border for what life is like outside the EU customs union. The increased border friction comes at the detriment of convenience for customs, he argues.

Best of the rest

Too many women are still treated like Christine Keeler — David Aaronovitch in The Times

The Brexit Breakdown — James Forsyth in The Spectator

Trump’s Frankenmoore Nightmare — The Wall Street Journal editorial board

Tony Blair speaks to Helen Lewis of the New Statesman: There is a “void at the heart” of Labour’s Brexit strategy

Trump, Israel and the Art of the Giveaway — Tom Friedman in The New York Times

What you've been saying

Rodents are part of the countryside’s ecosystem— letter from Vic Paine in East Sussex, UK

“Sir, Further to “Scientists look to genetics to wipe out rats”: I am not against genetic research but have the scientists involved thought about unintended consequences? If they succeed it would not only wipe out rats and mice in our cities — what happens when it goes beyond the city? Rodents are part of the ecosystem and food chain in the countryside. What effect will that have on owls, foxes and badgers, to name a few of our predators?”

Comment from Micah_6_8 on Chris Giles' analysis, Brexit: Watch the Swiss border for a warning on trade

“In short, the UK Government continues to search for the unicorn, believing it lies under the last unturned stone. Put simply, it is not possible to have no regulatory divergence between Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK, while believing the later has the freedom to do whatever it wishes, with out reference to the EU. Either there is a border on the island of Ireland or the Irish Sea, or the UK is forced on the Norwegian path, to accept EU regulatory convergence without comment. Believing that the unicorn will appear in your arms is not a sane strategy."

Don’t be fooled by myth the DUP likes to peddle— letter from Mary Fulton in Blackrock, Ireland

"Rules and legislation in which Northern Ireland differs from the rest of the rest of the UK are numerous. The most significant differences arise under the Good Friday Agreement, to which the DUP is a party. The agreement gives citizens in Northern Ireland the right to be recognised as a citizen of another sovereign state (the Republic of Ireland). The UK does not provide this option to UK citizens elsewhere in the jurisdiction. Further, the DUP has been happy to be selective about other aspects of laws applicable in the rest of the UK, for example in social areas (no abortion or same-sex marriage, and blasphemy law is still on the statute book), employment law and defamation. And of course if Northern Ireland’s Renewable Heat Incentive Scheme had been designed in the same way as in the rest of the UK, Arlene Foster’s administration would not have been responsible for such a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money.”

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Instant Insight: Employees must call out corporate misuse Fewer instances of rule-breaking would become conspiracies if more people questioned their employers’ motives, writes Andrew Hill

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Harsh lessons for the next phase of Brexit Brexiters’ false promises have dissolved on contact with the facts of economic life

The Big Read: UK politics: can business learn to live with a ‘hard-left’ Labour? The relationship has often been uncomfortable. But with both backing a softer Brexit, there may be room for rapprochement

Brexit: Watch the Swiss border for a warning on trade Even hiring a car becomes needlessly complex outside the customs union

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The Big Read: UK politics: can business learn to live with a ‘hard-left’ Labour? The relationship has often been uncomfortable. But with both backing a softer Brexit, there may be room for rapprochement

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