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European observers routinely bemoan the UK’s persistent evasion of the hard choices that Brexit forces upon it — “magical thinking” about having its cake and eating it notwithstanding.

But, argues Gideon Rachman, in his latest column, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the EU faces choices of its own. And treating the Brexit negotiations as an entirely legal process, rather than one that also has immense political and strategic implications, simply won’t do.

The EU, Gideon argues, has three broad options: stay tough; seek a compromise; or force a crisis. There are powerful arguments for and against each of these courses. But failing to choose among them would be an abdication of responsibility.

Hung out to dry: Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Italy yielded an inconclusive result. They also delivered a damning verdict on the country’s political class, writes Tony Barber. No one can predict the composition of the next government. But one thing is clear: anti-establishment forces are in the ascendancy.

A scientific blindspot: Why is that research into adolescence is so scanty, asks Anjana Ahuja? Ten-to-twenty-four-year-olds constitute a quarter of the global population, but scientists still know relatively little about the neurological bases of the dramatic changes we undergo during puberty. And that’s a problem, Anjana argues. After all, the habits of youth often become the millstones of adulthood.

Data dilemmas: Enabling anonymity was the original sin of the internet, writes John Thornhill. Being able to hide your identity online brought some benefits, but it has also created some serious problems. How can we trust the data of whose provenance we are ignorant? A solution might be at hand, however, in the shape of technology that could allow us to study large data sets without disclosing sensitive personal details. Huge business opportunities await anyone who can square that circle.

Best of the rest

Christopher Steele, the Man Behind the Trump Dossier — Jane Mayer in The New Yorker

Trump’s tariff gambit to face first political test in heart of steel country — David Shribman in The Globe and Mail

Two anti-elite parties have divided Italy between them. What now? — Lorenzo Marsili in The Guardian

Defend our common European values as the cement of the rule of law — Didier Reynders in Le Monde (in French)

Brexit shows the media must wise up to the challenges of covering populism — Sophie Gaston in the New Statesman

What you’ve been saying

An unsuitable tool for political reconstruction— letter from Jonathan Shaw (Maj Gen rtd)

On the day that Ashraf Ghani, the current Afghan premier, announced proposals to bring the Taliban into the political process in a bid to end the failed 17-year “war”, it should be recognised that the US is brilliant at winning battles but inept at political reconstruction. The war cited as a US triumph, the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, was a military effort to repel a military threat to an established government; no political reconstruction required. The same could be said of the British triumph in safeguarding the Sierra Leonean government early in Tony Blair’s premiership. And the same logic underpins the Russian support of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. In these instances, the military did what the military do best — kill people and break things. What is not the military competence, nor indeed their job, is political reconstruction. Our militaries were fabulously successful in kicking over Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq and the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Thereafter we have not been engaged in wars in these countries so much as political reconstruction; it is in this that we have repeatedly failed. And that is a political, State Department, Foreign Office failure more than a military one.

Comment from nuntius on Donald Trump’s steel tariffs flirt with a global trade war

What a time for the UK to be leaving the EU. At least the customs union and single market are underpinned by enforceable law backed up with state aid and competition rules, and overseen by the ECJ. All this gives our businesses a cast iron guarantee that access to the world’s largest market is not subject to the latest tweet of an ignoramus who does not understand the first thing about the benefits of trade. And let’s not forget that it was Conrad Black . . . who argued in 1990s . . . for the UK to leave the EU and join Nafta. Populism and nativism will end up making us all a lot poorer and a lot less secure. We will look back and wonder how we could have been so blind.

Multinationals have simply ignored the law— letter from James Woolf 

Corporate profits should be taxed in a country on the basis of the sales in that country. The current laws on permanent establishment, and disallowability of structuring one’s affairs solely for the purpose of reducing tax, mean that this is actually now the case. It is simply that multinationals do not observe these laws, and governments are too naive to enforce them. The multinationals have been keeping this money offshore for decades in disbelief at their luck. Now it will be taxed in the US, when it should properly be taxed in the countries where it was earned.

Today’s opinion

Not even doctors or lawmakers understand adolescents There is scant scientific research on the hazy period between childhood and adulthood

German coalition fails to solve woes of the weak centre-left Recent election results make the EU less able to respond to the next big crisis

The emerging mismatch of Brexit detail and UK rhetoric The EU’s draft withdrawal agreement indicates that the UK is not taking back control

Trusted data will transform the world The information revolution enables us to observe behaviour at mass scale as it happens

Instant Insight: What we have learnt about the UK Labour party’s John McDonnell The shadow chancellor has revealed much about his plans for office

Free Lunch: Light at the end of the Brexit tunnel Theresa May’s speech was for her own troops, not the rest of Europe

Oscar night success makes Mexico great again Guillermo del Toro’s wins are the perfect riposte to Donald Trump’s anti-Mexican riff

Europe’s strategic choices on Brexit The EU is a legal order, but it can be flexible when it wants to be

Instant Insight: Potential hung parliament leaves Italy facing weeks of uncertainty Voters have turned their backs on politicians regarded as arrogant and self-serving

Opinion today: How to hold companies accountable Groups are facing activist calls to take action on social and political issues

China and Russia: The new rapprochement, by Alexander Lukin An analysis of the Moscow-Beijing political project and where it is headed

Venezuela is the one to watch on oil This is Opec’s most unstable country and Maduro could escalate the dispute with Guyana

Markets Insight: Markets need a happy outcome on five key issues Achieving the right balance needs progress

The Big Read

The Big Read: How the Middle East is sowing seeds of a second Arab spring Will greater repression replace subsidies as a way of containing social unrest in many of the autocratic states of the region? 

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