British Prime Minister Theresa May looks on as she addresses a press conference with the European Commission president at the European Commission in Brussels on December 8, 2017.  
Britain and the EU reached a historic deal on December 8 on the terms of the Brexit divorce after the British Prime Minister rushed to Brussels for early morning talks.  / AFP PHOTO / EMMANUEL DUNAND
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It has been, at best, a mixed year for Theresa May. The UK prime minister began 2017 riding high in the opinion polls and high on hubris. Her party thought she was unassailable and her hard Brexit vision was unrivaled. But after gambling her reputation on a general election in June, which backfired spectacularly, she lost most of her authority and credibility along with her parliamentary majority.

Yet the Conservative party continues to support Mrs May. Janan Ganesh argues in his column that this loveless loyalty comes at a price. Each day she remains in office damages her party’s standing among metropolitan liberal voters — the very people David Cameron spent a decade wooing. The fact that Mrs May failed to find a viable electoral coalition back in June is proof that the former prime minister was right to pursue voters with forward looking values.

However, nobody in particular wants to remove Mrs May. As Janan points out, Brexiters do not want to unseat her in case it derails their pet project. And Remainers do not want to risk someone more extreme taking her place. So for now, she remains in situ and will likely do so for the foreseeable future. But there will be a reckoning, when the next Conservative leader has to find a way to win a convincing parliamentary majority — something the party has not done for 30 years.

German economics: Gideon Rachman says in his column that Germany shows that public policy must be about justice, as well as growth. The old Clinton slogan that “it’s the economy, stupid” no longer holds true in today’s febrile political atmosphere.

Learning from Uber: Diane Coyle argues in an opinion piece that the public sector can learn from the successes of platform networks. These disruptors have done so well, she argues, because the existing services were so poor.

Brexit clarity: Bernard Spitz argues that European businesses are fed up with soothing words about Brexit and want some clarity over the UK’s destination. Although Mrs May’s Cabinet has discussed where the country is heading for the first time this week, he may be waiting some time.

Best of the rest

As It Leaves the EU, Britain Suffers Setback After Setback — Andrew Hammond in the Wall Street Journal

Is Trump a Blessing or Curse for Religious Conservatives? — New York Times

Blue Planet feeds our human need for wonder in a sterile modern world — Juliet Samuel in The Telegraph

McCain — a tireless voice for democracy the world over — Fred Hiatt in The Washington Post

Brexiteers must realise that loose lips can sink deals — Raphael Hogarth in The Times

What you’ve been doing 

Any language learner should aspire to mastering the figurative phrase — letter from Steve Elford in Frankfurt

“Sir, Slamming “native” English speakers — a breed now often hard to define — for their use of idioms has recently become almost as popular (and as tedious) a pastime as lambasting them for their monolingualism ( Michael Skapinker’s review of Languages After Brexit). Unsurprisingly, therefore, teaching programmes and conferences these days are awash with such “simplify it” guff, while the study of idioms is viewed as a deleterious, nay counter-revolutionary activity. Yet so-called figurative phrases are, surely, the lifeblood of any language, and something a learner should aspire to emulate.”

Comment by Sebastian on Wolfgang Munchau’s last column, Lack of eurozone reform outranks Brexit as the EU’s biggest threat

“The Eurozone is incomplete, that much is clear. But the solution can only be completing it, not abandoning it. Are none of you old enough to remember what it was for the southern countries before the Eurozone? Periodical crises and inflationary “readjustments” that wiped out debt…alongside savings, purchasing power and jobs…Why do you think they signed up for the Euro in the first place?”

Last week’s deal showed that the FT was wrong — letter from Jon Moynihan, London, UK

“We Brexiters are optimistic about becoming, once again, a free trade nation; the FT, for all that I’m sure it believes strongly in free trade, promoting as it does human welfare, somehow thinks it better that we should remain within the EU’s protectionist tariff barriers, and let the EU strike our trade deals for us. However, the FT has majored in recent months on the belief that the EU “holds all the cards” and that we can only take whatever deal the EU dictates to us. Last week’s deal showed your belief was wrong.”

The Big Read

The Big Read: The real price of Brexit begins to emerge FT research shows that the weekly hit to the British economy could be the same £350m that Leave campaigners promised to claw back

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