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The Brexit talks have been unlocked. After a midnight dash to Brussels, Theresa May has brokered a tentative divorce settlement with the EU — agreeing to a substantive exit bill, a continued role for the European Court of Justice for eight years and a necessary fudge for the Irish border question. The UK prime minister has managed to bring all her Conservative colleagues through a remarkable number of compromises. The once bolshie rhetoric telling the EU to “go whistle” for its monetary demands has been replaced by a pragmatic realism.

Avoiding a decisive answer to the Irish question was necessary at this relatively early stage in talks. But at some point soon, it will have to be addressed. Jonathan Powell, who served as Tony Blair’s chief of staff for a decade, argues in an opinion piece for FT Weekend that the series of contradictory statements on the island of Ireland does not bode well for a smooth exit from the bloc. The language referring to “full alignment” raises the possibility of the UK essentially remaining in the single market and the customs union.

When Brexit talks enter the critical second stage, focusing on the UK’s future relationship with the bloc, there will be a special EU task force devoted to the Irish question. But the divorce settlement puts the onus on Britain to come up with a solution. If it does not, it will revert to full alignment with EU law. Unless Mrs May has a magical solution up her sleeve, the UK’s exit might have just become a lot softer. And if that occurs, the Tories will be most unhappy.

Jerusalem woes: Simon Schama argues in an opinion piece that Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will not bring peace to the Middle East. Palestinian nationalists might assume now that the two-state solution is dead.

James Murdoch: This weekend’s person in the news is James Murdoch, who is stepping out of his father’s shadow with an informal auction for 21st Century Fox’s prized assets. Whether he joins Disney or not, the Murdoch family is going its own professional ways.

Schrödinger’s cat: Henry Mance looks at the curious case of a pop-up restaurant in Dulwich that did not exist and finds parallels with the UK government’s Brexit impact assessments. Can the restaurant in a shed and the papers both exist and not exist at the same time?

Best of the week

Martin Wolf on using the global recovery to address fundamental problems in the world economy

Anjana Ahuja on “flink” — the invention that opens the way to printing body parts

Edward Luce on liberal America’s misguided Putin fixation

Jamil Anderlini on lessons for President Xi from the Ming dynasty

Tim Harford on the Brexit lessons from William Golding

Courtney Weaver on Roy Moore and the limits of electoral accountability

Miranda Green on the “centrist dads” discovering the political centre ground

Philip Stephens on the harsh lessons for the next phase of Brexit

Izabella Kaminska on the low-tech solutions to high-tech car theft

What you’ve been saying

Dynamic and diverse — the other side to San Francisco— letter from Paul Peninger in San Francisco, CA

“Your report ‘A dream deferred’, while accurately portraying the terrible extent of homelessness on our city’s streets, also perpetuated a couple of myths that have become popular to recite, but are nonetheless false. The first and more pernicious of these myths is that San Francisco is destined over time to become whiter. The reality is that while the city’s population overall has grown by 64,000, or 8.2 per cent, since 2000, the proportion of the population identifying as white alone has grown by only 2.3 per cent.”

Comment by Percy Street on Miranda Green’s article, The Blairite ‘centrist dads’ rediscovering the political middle

“Alastair Campbell, in The New European, has argued that Jeremy Corbyn would gain recognised national leadership by making the case against Brexit, reworking the older slogan to become: ‘Tough on Brexit. Tough on the causes of Brexit.’ I would add that the real, hard-right, minimal state Tories want a hard Brexit: a poorer but ‘sovereign’ Britain would simultaneously starve government and shift spending priorities. These are the real citizens of nowhere because they have no interest in a sustaining social solidarity.”

Hongzhi Emperor was the Ming dynasty’s best— letter from Zhao Xiaoou in Aberdeen, UK

“Sir, The photo accompanying the online version of Jamil Anderlini’s article ‘Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive mimics a Ming obsession’ (December 7) doesn’t quite illustrate the point the author is making. The vase in the picture was made during the reign of the Hongzhi Emperor, who is now considered the best emperor in the Ming dynasty, during whose time the economy and the people prospered. The politics were (relatively) free from corruption and court intrigue. None of this is guaranteed for President Xi Jinping. Hongzhi also has the distinction of being the only emperor in the entirety of Chinese history to have only one spouse in his life. The same, alas, already cannot be expected from Mr Xi. But he might well blaze a new trail.”

Today’s opinion

Ingram Pinn’s illustration of the week: Peace deal

Irish border fudge points the way to future Brexit battles
The negotiations on trade will reveal Tory splits on more than Northern Ireland

FT View: Steinhoff’s scandal hits a weakened South Africa
Serial M&A and accounting scandals have long travelled together

Trump’s evangelism over Jerusalem will not bring peace
The Israeli right and Palestinian nationalists assume the two-state solution is dead

Tony Garrett, tobacco industry leader, 1918-2017
The chairman of Imperial who pioneered the group’s sponsorship of sports and arts

The high-stakes Brexit game
How did the issue of the Irish border come to knock the divorce deal off course?

Brexit papers and a suburban shed pose Schrödinger’s cat paradox
The UK government’s elusive impact assessments seem to both exist and not exist

Person in the News: James Murdoch steps out from Rupert’s shadow
Long eclipsed by his powerful father, the younger son is ready to strike out for himself

David Allen Green’s blog: Brexit: what regulatory alignment means and does not mean

Instant Insight: Theresa May’s Brexit breakthrough makes a smooth exit more likely
The UK prime minister has to hold her party together through trade talks, writes Sebastian Payne

Undercover Economist: The Brexit monomania built on blind faith
Golding’s ‘The Spire’ offers eerie parallels with Britain’s withdrawal from the EU

FT View

FT View: Steinhoff’s scandal hits a weakened South Africa
Serial M&A and accounting scandals have long travelled together

FT View: Brexit passes the first hurdle with divorce deal
Theresa May has done well to broker an agreement but it is on the EU’s terms

The Big Read

The Big Read: Manchester City and the ‘Disneyfication’ of football
Team’s owners are developing a global network of clubs that could transform the sport

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