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Brexit, to date, has been a process of treading delicately around red lines. Theresa May’s government has stated that leaving the EU means curtailing free movement of people, ending the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and ending large sums of money going to Brussels. The EU has said its red lines are that the four freedoms underpinning the single market (of goods, services, capital and people) are indivisible, and that membership of the bloc comes with costs as well as benefits.

All of which points towards a clean break or no deal at all. Philip Stephens argues in his column that the UK’s self-enforced straitjacket creates a trap for Mrs May when negotiating a future trading relationship. Whereas most trade negotiations result in liberalisation, any UK-EU deal is likely to do the opposite. Although both sides will be hit by a rejection of the status quo, the UK will come off worse affected if these red lines result in no deal and trading reverts to World Trade Organisation rules.

With most of the available models ruled out, Philip writes that any future relationship will be based on the sort that applies to Canada or Korea — a far cry from Mrs May’s promise of a “deep and special partnership” with the bloc. Of course, the UK might change its mind and the red lines be blurred. Many of the more aggressive assertions made during the first phase of negotiations (that the EU could “go whistle” about money, for example) were abandoned when reality struck. The same might happen in the talks on the future relationship too.

Stagnant year ahead: Chris Giles says that the FT’s annual survey of economists has data to displease both sides of the Brexit debate. Although the squeeze on living standards is due to end, growth looks to be sluggish and business investment low.

TV night with Trump: Robert Shrimsley imagines the conversations in Trump Tower on US election night, based on the excerpts from a shocking new book about the president. What was Team Trump planning to do if their candidate didn't win?

Greek complacency: Tony Barber warns that the Greek government should avoid complacency as the bailout cycle ends. The country's remarkable turnaround has made it look stable but there are still plenty of challenges ahead. 

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May must hope things can only get better — Christopher Wilkins in The Times

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The Coalition’s NHS reforms have proved disastrous. We need a Royal commission to fix them — Nick Timothy in The Telegraph

What you’ve been saying

People enter politics to improve citizens’ lives— letter from Richard Peach, Barcelona, Spain

“Today’s politicians in the UK and other countries seem to be automatically assumed to be incompetent, corrupt and self-seeking. I disagree. I studied politics at a British university years ago and I well remember the chairman of the National Association of Parish Councils giving a talk one day where he said (I paraphrase) that ‘many [UK] voters think people enter politics for self-glorification or even money. This is incorrect. The daily work of parish councillors, district councillors, county councillors and MPs is mundane, trying to solve almost insoluble issues and takes up many hours a week. These people are mainly motivated by the belief they can improve the lives of ordinary citizens, not by money or glory.’”

Comment from Mysterion on Miranda Green’s Year in a Word: Quite

“Colloquial English is moving from a spoken to a written form. Unnecessary words are stripped away when we type on a mobile keyboard. Sadly, nuance often reads like equivocation online.”

Virgil and Caesar could have written code— letter from Phil Hughes, Menlo Park, CA, US

“Virgil and Caesar would probably be quite comfortable in writing computer code, which is essentially just a series of coherent commands, very similar to their tight prose (could “Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes” be any shorter?) and the skills needed to manoeuvre an army. On the contrary, the recent emergence of tweets and emojis as a means of expression abandons coherency. “Spaghetti” code is the result. Fragments of ideas are coded and then combined into a jumble full of redundancies and multiple versions of the same variables. There is a reason why popular computer operating systems run to gigabytes and never seem to get any faster in spite of processor speeds having increased more than 1,000 times in 20 years.”

Today’s opinion

TV’s Donald Trump — an election night documentary If neither Trump nor his leading aides expected to win, what were they planning?

UK braces itself for low growth and rising rates The FT’s annual survey offers an outlook to displease both sides of the Brexit divide

Greece risks complacency as its bailout cycle winds down Europe views the country as a locus of stability after Tsipras’s remarkable turnround

The frontiers of innovation 2017 In markets, industry, medicine and morals the challenge of change gets ever sharper

Britain has made itself a Brexit straitjacket In setting out red lines, Theresa May has created a bespoke trap for the UK on trade

The Big Read: China softens tone in drive for Asia influence Diplomatic and economic charm offensive exploits regional doubts over US under Trump

FT View

FT View: France’s state sell-off is not yet a revolution President Macron has form when it comes to industrial intervention

FT View: Brexit raid on a British financial success story Paris’s assault on UK fund management would be counterproductive

The Big Read

The Big Read: China softens tone in drive for Asia influence Diplomatic and economic charm offensive exploits regional doubts over US under Trump

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