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It is the beginning of the end for the UK’s membership of the EU. Prime Minister Theresa May signed the historic letter that begins the process on Tuesday evening. It was physically taken to Brussels and handed over to the UK’s permanent representative to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, for formal presentation to the president of the European Council.

The British pound was volatile as the process began, with analysts predicting that the currency is likely to be a gauge for market sentiment during the complex talks that lie ahead. The FT’s Alex Barker looks at the logistics of the negotiations and why they are likely to be fraught. For EU citizens, at least some uncertainty was removed when UK officials said the triggering of Article 50 would not act as the cut-off date for the free movement of people from the EU to the UK. But there are increasing jitters from businesses, locally and overseas, about the effects of leaving the EU. As the two-year countdown to leave the bloc is set to begin, some European lawmakers want the British people to know they can still change their minds.

Here’s former prime minister Gordon Brown on why Brexit is an opportunity to make a federal UK, and Martin Wolf on why Brexiters must lose for the process to succeed. (FT, Reuters)

In the news

Westinghouse files Chapter 11 The filing will give Westinghouse Electric, the nuclear unit owned by Toshiba, protection from creditors but it could cost the Japanese conglomerate more than $9bn for the 2016 fiscal year. Westinghouse’s failure to deliver on nuclear power has brought down a 131-year-old company that drove industrial innovation in the 19th century. (Bloomberg, NAR, FT)

Smog in South Korea South Korea has joined the ranks of the world’s most polluted countries. The government has traditionally blamed pollutants blowing in from China but research shows that much of the pollution is homegrown. (FT)

A vote for Macron France’s former prime minister Manuel Valls says he will vote for independent presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron rather than his own party’s candidate, in the first round of voting next month. Mr Valls said he is trying to keep far-right candidate Marine Le Pen out of office. (Bloomberg)

Stock exchange blocked Europe’s competition commissioner has blocked the merger of the London Stock Exchange Group and Germany’s Deutsche Börse, vetoing a union unbalanced by the Brexit vote as the UK serves its European divorce papers. It is the third time in 17 years that an attempt to create an Anglo-German exchange has failed.(FT)

Trump rolls back US climate change actions Donald Trump signed an executive order rolling back Barack Obama’s effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions from power plants, striking at the heart of the US commitments made in the landmark 2015 Paris climate deal. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil has written to the Trump administration urging it to keep the US in the Paris accord. Coal miners in the West Virginia hope the order will bring them jobs — but few think it will. (FT, NYT)

It's a big day for

Brexit Here’s how the big day will go down. And here is Punk FT’s visual reminder of how difficult the separation process will be. (FT)

Food for thought

Is Egypt out of control? The Arab world’s largest country may be ruled by a military strongman but his policy record looks weak. The FT’s David Gardner writes that after a failed revolution, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi has “steered his country into an old confrontation. The army is entrenched on one side, with increasingly radicalised Islamists on the other, and no space left in-between”. For those squeezed out of politics, the release last week of former president Hosni Mubarak is a yet another sign of their powerlessness, says writer Mona Eltahawy. (FT, NYT)

Japan gambles on Toyota’s hydrogen-powered car As rivals look to electric vehicles, the country’s leading carmaker is putting its faith in a relatively untested alternative. (FT)

Pre-emptive placating What connects a scandal-soaked kindergarten, the fraudulently padded accounts of Toshiba and a trio of sacked news anchors? Sontaku, the Japanese term for the pre-emptive, placatory following of an order that has not been given. (FT)

A spider is probably watching you right now The world’s spider population weighs 29m tonnes, and it could theoretically eat every human on Earth in one year. Sleep tight. (WaPo)

Square groupers Every year, Florida fishermen find “square groupers” — bales of cocaine or marijuana worth millions of dollars — floating in the ocean and face a dilemma: call the police or try your luck on the open market? They risk prison time and, sometimes, unimaginable bloodshed. (Miami New Times)

Video of the day

Cargill on Trump and trade David MacLennan, chief executive of the multinational commodities group, speaks to the FT about the Trump administration, populism, trade protectionism and how the company can cut carbon emissions. (FT)

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