Foreign affairs

Broken-hearted by Brexit, thousands of Britons are applying, or thinking of applying, for citizenship in another EU country. All I can say is, unless you have recently won the BBC television quiz shows Mastermind or University Challenge, forget Denmark.

According to Inger Støjberg, Denmark’s integration minister, more than two-thirds of the first batch of foreign applicants who took a new Danish citizenship test in June have failed the exam. Only 31.2 per cent passed, she announced on Tuesday. Take a look at some of the questions, and you will see why most people have flunked the test. Read more

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As most Americans were getting ready to grill hamburgers and hot dogs for the July 4th holiday, Hillary Clinton was on Saturday being grilled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation over her installation of a private email server in her New York home and use of a personal account when she was secretary of state. The interview signalled that the FBI was nearing the end of a year-long investigation that hung over Clinton’s second bid for the White house. Read more

European rivals eye London’s banking business
How far will Frankfurt and Paris go to claim the business of the City of London once the UK has left the European Union? Which other cities are in the running and how many jobs does London stand to lose? Gideon Rachman puts these questions to Michael Stothard, the FT’s Paris correspondent and James Shotter, Frankfurt correspondent.Cancel

“Now it’s our turn!” So said Geert Wilders (above), leader of the far-right PVV party in the Netherlands, after the UK electorate voted in last week’s referendum to leave the EU.

In practice, there is next to no chance of a Dutch referendum on EU membership — certainly not under Dutch law as it stands. However, to say this is not to underestimate the serious political challenges that lie ahead in the Netherlands. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

All good dramas involve the suspension of disbelief. So it was with Brexit. I went to bed at 4am on Friday depressed that Britain had voted to leave the EU. The following day my gloom only deepened. But then, belatedly, I realised that I have seen this film before. I know how it ends. And it does not end with the UK leaving Europe.

Just a few months ago the idea that Britons would vote to leave the EU seemed implausible. But to the shock of the world, that’s what they just did. A short while back the idea of Donald Trump as president seemed equally inconceivable. Does the Brexit vote tell us we should now upgrade the odds of him winning? Read more

“We have a PhD in crises in Latin America. We had 25 crisis in 30 years. We are better managing crises than abundances,” the Inter-American Development Bank’s chief executive Luis Alberto Moreno told your correspondent on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Latin America in Medellín. After a commodity boom that placed many into the emerging middle class, he sees a key challenge is to make political actors use those supposed crisis skills to form a “new Latin American citizen” – more educated, more connected, more aspirational and demanding better and more transparent management.

As Venezuelans line up to validate a petition to recall socialist President Nicolás Maduro and call fresh elections, his government had better pay attention to the growing demands of its desperate people. Even China, Venezuela’s main lender, is getting itchy and has been approaching the opposition to safeguard debt payments. Venezuela’s situation has got so out of control that a gunman opened fire at the central bank as he asked for the board members. Meanwhile, emissaries led by former Dominican President Leonel Fernández are trying to lure the president to unify Venezuela’s exchange rates to give oxygen to the ailing economy. Read more

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If Republican leaders were looking for a more palatable Donald Trump, on Wednesday they got it.

In his long-awaited speech attacking Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Republican nominee mostly stuck to a prepared speech in which he lambasted Clinton as a “corrupt” politician and “world class liar” who had “spread death, destruction and terrorism everywhere she touched”. He also criticised his Democratic rival for taking money from regimes that repress women and gays. Read more

What next for Modi’s India?
The Indian government announced welcome reforms to attract foreign investors this week. But India-watchers were distracted by the resignation of the much-respected head of the country’s central bank, Raghuram Rajan. Gideon Rachman discusses the future of prime minister Narendra Modi’s reform programme with the FT’s South Asia bureau chief Amy Kazmin and former Mumbai correspondent James Crabtree.

 

With just a day to go before voting, the result of the British referendum on EU membership is anybody’s guess. The most recent FT poll-of-polls has Leave ahead by 45-44 – and there will be further polls released later today. Those hopeful Remainers who thought they had spotted a potentially decisive surge to their side late last week have been disappointed, as some recent polls have seen a swing back to Leave.

Both sides have an extra factor from which they take comfort. The Remain side point to the fact that the bookmakers still predict that Britain will vote to Remain inside the EU – Ladbrokes, my local turf accountants, are offering odds of 3-1 against Brexit. But the pro-Leave camp have a different source of encouragement. They are boosted by the extremely strong pro-Leave sentiment that many MPs are encountering on the doorsteps, as they campaign. One pro-Leave campaigner says that if that sentiment is genuinely reflected at the ballot box, he would not be surprised if his side wins by as much as 57-43. Read more

On Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee announced that its trove of opposition research on Donald Trump had been hacked by alleged Russian government hackers.

Today, Gawker has published a 200-page document which appears to be the DNC’s Trump playbook. Read more

Germany and France: Different world outlook

In an indication of the obstacles that may face a renewed push for closer European integration, a poll released on Tuesday pointed to significant differences in world outlook between the peoples of Germany and France, the nations that were once the motor of EU unity.

According to the Pew Research Center’s survey, entitled “Europeans Face the World Divided”, Germans are considerably more confident than the French about their place in the world and the desirability of international co-operation.

Some 62 per cent of Germans think their country plays a more important global role than it did 10 years ago, compared with only 23 per cent of French people. By contrast, 46 per cent of the French think their country plays a lesser role, compared with only 11 per cent of Germans. Read more

Over the years, I’ve followed stories of English football hooliganism around the world with a certain grim fascination. Last night, unfortunately, I got to witness it first hand – at the England-Russia game at Euro 2016 in Marseilles.

During the day it is not hard to avoid the trouble. Just avoid city-centre bars full of singing, chanting drunkards. Nearer the ground things got nastier. Read more

Croatia: culturally and geographically, central European.

Even before the 1991-95 war of independence which liberated them from the old Yugoslavia, the people of Croatia bristled if outsiders labelled their country part of the Balkans.

These days they are no less insistent that Croatia is, culturally and geographically, central European. The broader implication behind this otherwise not unreasonable claim is that civilisation in Mitteleuropa is more advanced than in the benighted backwaters of the Balkans.

However, with the rise of “illiberal democracy” in nearby countries such as Hungary, Poland and to a lesser extent Slovakia, and after Austria almost elected a far-right politician as its president, one might ask if Croatia would be well-advised to play down its central European credentials. Or are there, in fact, signs that illiberal democracy is spreading into Croatia? Read more

Apart from the likely economic damage, a British vote to leave the EU in the June 23 “Brexit” referendum would throw up troublesome political and constitutional questions. A period of profound uncertainty could be in store for Britain and, by extension, the EU as a whole.

Let us imagine that the Leave camp wins the referendum. David Cameron would surely resign as prime minister and give up the leadership of the Conservative party. Whoever his successor in both posts might be, it is obvious that he or she would have to honour the electorate’s verdict and start preparing legislation to extract Britain from the EU.

But what would be the substance of this legislation? The Leave camp is a mixed bag of anti-EU campaigners. It is not united behind a specific plan for redefining Britain’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU. Read more

The three remaining candidates in the race – Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders – are all out in California today – and for good reason.

New polls show that Clinton and Sanders are locked in a tightening Democratic primary there, while Trump has declared plans to put California in play come November. (The deeply blue state has voted Democratic in every presidential election since George H W Bush ran against Michael Dukakis in 1988.) Read more

Politicians all over the world are struggling to cope with the new world of social media. Donald Trump has proved particularly adept at abusing his opponents on Twitter. But there are also gentler ways of attracting attention. One increasingly popular stratagem for politicians is to post photos of their cats – which are far more likely to attract likes and retweets than any number of dull policy documents.

Two prominent cat-lovers who have risen to power over the last year are the new president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party. Both leaders are single, but are noted for their devotion to their cats. President Tsai has kept a low profile about her relationships with humans – but has posted frequent updates and videos about her cats. Her aides admit that these are considerably more popular than her policy pronouncements. A recent FT profile of Kaczynski noted that he “prefers to spend his evenings at home with his cat”. Photos of the Polish leader with his ginger moggy have tended to soften his rather authoritarian image. Read more

This is the latest edition of LatAm Viva, our weekly newsletter on the continent. To receive it every Friday by email, sign up here.

This week, it has been a quarter of a century since Thelma & Louise sailed their battered convertible into the Grand Canyon, securing their place in Hollywood’s pantheon of heroes. This week is another in the saga of the Venezuelan government’s push on the gas pedal towards the approaching abyss. Read more

GCHQ suffers from a shortage of Arabic, Mandarin and Russian speakers

The decline in knowledge of foreign languages in Britain is a familiar tale, but an extremely important one nonetheless. I want to draw the attention of readers to a Cambridge university report, “The Value of Languages”. It is the most concise, up-to- date survey of the problem that I have come across.

All too often the status of English as the world’s lingua franca leads people in Britain to the complacent conclusion that there is no need to bother with foreign languages. As the Cambridge report observes, however, a shortage of foreign language speakers is bad for British businesses, is potentially harmful to national security and carries risks for the criminal justice and healthcare systems.

Companies with global operations recruit globally, the report notes. “UK graduates must be aware that the asset value of English diminishes commensurate to the number of international graduates entering the global labour market with fluent English and other languages,” it says. “Too often [employers] report that British graduates have very limited experience of life outside the UK.” Read more

The abrupt cancellation of the latest round of negotiations aimed at ending the Cyprus dispute is the latest indication that the prospects for a comprehensive peace settlement, seemingly bright at the start of the year, may be dimming again. Who now would be brave enough to put money on a Cyprus deal by the end of 2016, the target date everyone was talking about in January?

This time, the problem concerns gourmet food and diplomatic protocol. Nicos Anastasiades, president of the internationally recognised, Greek Cypriot-controlled state of Cyprus, was due to hold talks on Friday with Mustafa Akinci, head of the Turkish Cypriot entity in the island’s north.

But on Tuesday the Greek Cypriot leader called off the talks. Mr Akinci, you see, had attended a banquet on Monday evening that the Turkish government gave for heads of state gathered in Istanbul for a UN summit. Read more