Listen to this article
This article is from today’s FT Opinion email. Sign up to receive a daily digest of the big issues straight to your inbox.
Earlier this week, the UK secured a conditional agreement with Brussels for a 21-month Brexit transition period. And with just over a year to go until the clock strikes, Whitehall has already started discussing how to dismantle the Department for Exiting the EU. All signs point to the exit — and to the idea that Theresa May is determined to walk through it in March 2019.
To achieve this end, the British prime minister has a fail-safe strategy, says Philip Stephens in his most recent column. She will accept “just about any deal she is offered”. But at what cost? So far, Philip observes, the story of the negotiations has been one long procession of capitulations by Britain. He predicts the second phase will be no different, except perhaps that the government will abandon its demands — whether on privileged access for the City of London or bespoke customs arrangements — ever more quickly as time slips away.
For Mrs May, politics has come to trump economics. As a result, the best we can expect from the next six months of talks is a fuzzy statement of intent that will be sold as all things to all people. The cynicism, says Philip, takes one’s breath away.
Gaming the global system: Cambridge Analytica seemed to epitomise the potential of entrepreneurship in the age of globalisation, as it served up data gathered across borders to clients in different legal jurisdictions, dodging the attention of any one national government. But, writes Gillian Tett, the US company fell foul of its own model and is now facing a UK lawsuit. Globalisation produces chain reactions that executives ignore at their peril.
Council tax catastrophe: Martin Wolf argues that UK council tax, an annual levy on residential property, is a regressive and unfair mess that increases inequality between rich and poor, not to mention between young and old. The case to reform it is overwhelming — especially if the government has any interest in attracting a new generation of voters.
Keeping data cold in Iceland: A little discussed result of the digital revolution will be a massive surge in the amount of electricity consumed by the world’s data centres, writes Heidar Gudjonsson. One of the biggest energy costs comes from the need to keep the servers in data centres cool — so what better place to build them than in Arctic countries that also happen to be sitting on stockpiles of stranded renewable energy.
Best of the rest
Are the French the new optimists? — Pamela Druckerman in the New York Times
Cambridge Analytica and our lives inside the surveillance machine — Adrian Chen in The New Yorker
Forget the Bitcoin crash — cryptocurrencies are a godsend — Andy Davis in Prospect
Nobody knows anything about China — James Palmer in Foreign Policy
What Putin won in Russia’s election — Nina Kruscheva for Project Syndicate
What you’ve been saying
Don’t blame science if politicians won’t learn — letter from Lajos Bokros
The question . . . is not how to prevent crises because that is largely impossible. Macroeconomic policy has to answer two more modest questions: how to slow down the accumulation of investment bubbles fueled by unsustainable growth of credit and debt, and how to mitigate the negative economic, financial and social consequences after the outbreak of the crisis. That is where governments have an important role to play in the capitalist market economy and that is where many governments failed miserably a decade ago.
Comment from Matt 1043 on Cambridge Analytica exploited Facebook data with style
Possible that the real smoke and mirrors is the claim that all this was done by Facebook microtargeting. Cambridge Analytica themselves are on the record in an obscure marketing journal saying that Facebook was only used to develop and refine messaging — the real impact was then delivered by TV ads. Aleksandr Kogan said something similar on Radio 4, i.e. his models not that great. Maybe FT should check whether the other scam is Cambridge Analytica’s sales pitch to naive politicos . . .
Don’t give up on the driverless car experiment — letter from Andrew Fraser
While this first fatal accident involving an autonomous vehicle accident was an undoubted tragedy, it is worth reflecting that — should it have occurred on an “average” day — there were more than 3,400 similar fatalities from vehicles driven by people on the same day, along with more than 164,000 injuries (according to the most recent World Health Organization data). In this context, and recognising Goal 11 of the Sustainable Development Goals calling for “safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems”, it is surely right to continue to experiment responsibly with vehicles systems that may minimise risks of human error.
Alexander Nix, a fake Bond villain obscuring the real mastermind
Cambridge Analytica’s éminence grise is really just an adman bigging up his firm
Blue passports and public procurement
Why Brexit may mean more public contracts going to foreign companies
Campaigners hit Cambridge Analytica where it hurts
Globalisation gave the data company wings; now it is turning into an Achilles heel
Free Lunch: Waiting for the trade wars to start
Europe must fight Trump’s protectionism vigorously
The Arctic, where cold storage comes cheap for the digital age
Data centres could reduce their carbon footprint by making use of the icy north
Lex: How Europe’s data privacy rules could cut into Facebook’s revenues
Companies cannot count on strong-arming picky users by denying them content
Britain’s latest Brexit strategy: any deal will do
As the clock ticks, the UK’s position only grows weaker
Reform council tax and close the generational wealth gap
Why should the gains of the propertied be less taxed than the fruits of enterprise?
FT View: Britain’s economy still needs a healthy pay rise
A modest increase in UK earnings growth does not equal normality
FT View: Brexiters are spoiling for a transition fish fight
Britain’s negotiating hand is not as strong as some would like to think
FT View: Donald Trump cannot change China without help
Unilateral trade sanctions are not as effective as multilateral action
The Big Read
The Big Read: The migration dilemma: EU weighs impact of its deal with Turkey
The accord has reduced refugee flows and eased tensions within the bloc but deeper issues have been left unresolved