Cameron’s message to the European Union
David Cameron has set out his demands for a new relationship with the European Union ahead of a referendum on Britain’s membership. Gideon Rachman discusses how the UK prime minister’s message is being received at home and in the rest of Europe with George Parker and Alex Barker

Britain has long built its foreign policy around a special relationship with the US. The coming week will witness an attempt by the UK government to build another special relationship — this time with the People’s Republic of China. The government of David Cameron will be straining every sinew to honour President Xi Jinping, during his five-day state visit to the UK. The Chinese leader will be the guest of honour at a banquet at Buckingham Palace, he will give a speech at Westminster, he will spend time with the prime minister at Chequers and will travel to Manchester with the chancellor of the exchequer.

President Xi’s visit has been meticulously planned to provide images that will play well in China. But all this pomp could well be disrupted by some unplanned circumstances. The US Navy has let it be known that, over the next few days, it intends to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing has been bolstering these claims in recent months, by “land reclamation” exercises that have created artificial islands — some of which now host airstrips. The Americas are expected to sail within 12 miles of these new islands — to make the point that they do not accept that China has established new territorial waters in the Pacific Ocean. Read more

I was at the Greek archaeological site of Delphi last weekend, attending a conference on Europe’s future, when the news arrived that Jeremy Corbyn, a 66-year-old leftwinger, had been elected as leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party. I climbed up the hill and asked the Oracle for some predictions.

TB: Oh, Oracle, will the world see Corbyn’s triumph as irrelevant? After all, Labour’s never going to win a general election under him, so he will never be prime minister.

ORACLE: Not irrelevant, my friend, but illustrative. The world will see Corbyn’s success as one more that Britain, like a snail, is retreating from the international stage and withdrawing into itself. Read more

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  • Owning a top English football club used to be every tycoon’s dream, but five stalled sales this summer suggest the asset appears to have lost some of its lustre
  • Fears are growing that Ukraine’s Right Sector, the only big volunteer battalion Kiev has not brought under regular army control, could turn its fire on the government itself
  • The desire to avoid a power struggle within the Taliban and the Pakistan military’s push for peace talks in Afghanistan explain the silence around the death of Mullah Omar, writes Ahmed Rashid
  • Ankara is organizing Syrian rebels for an assault on the Islamic State’s last stronghold along the Turkish border and could even use its warplanes to support their advance (Foreign Policy)
  • Rohingya female migrants from Bangladesh and Myanmar seeking to escape turmoil and poverty are often tricked or forced into marriages to pay smugglers for their freedom (New York Times)

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By Gideon Rachman
David Cameron’s acknowledgement that he was not greeted with a “wall of love” at last week’s EU summit demonstrated a flair for languid British understatement. In reality, the prime minister’s long-anticipated demand for a renegotiation of Britain’s membership of the EU has been met with a mixture of anger and incomprehension.

In a couple of hours time, I will be setting down at Stamford Bridge to see Chelsea play Crystal Palace and – I hope – secure the victory that will make them Premier League champions. The morning’s newspapers are full of previews of the game, as well as stories about the UK election and the continuing surge of the Scottish National Party. Reading them, I have begun to discern a connection between Scottish nationalism and English football. Here’s why. Read more

Ed Miliband outlines his foreign policy plans at Chatham House in London

If Ed Miliband becomes Britain’s prime minister next month what will this mean for the country’s foreign policy? The question is one that the UK’s allies should start considering because the prospect of him winning power is growing. Betting companies believe there is now a greater chance of Mr Miliband entering Number 10 after the May 7 election than of David Cameron returning to office.

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EU officials have come under renewed pressure to take action against flotillas of migrants from Africa following the deaths of more than 1,000 people during attempted Mediterranean crossings over the past week alone.

A massive search and rescue operation remains underway to find survivors among the wreckage of a ship thought to be loaded with more than 800 migrants which capsized over the weekend off the coast of Libya, potentially representing the worst maritime disaster of its type in the Med. Only 27 of those on board have been rescued.

The migrant deaths have shone a spotlight on Libya’s lucrative people smuggling industry. While the human cargo consists mainly of young men from Africa and the Middle East, more than 900 children also embarked on the dangerous crossing in the first three months of 2015.

In the aftermath of Libya’s bloody civil war, business is booming for the people traffickers. These figures illustrate why. Read more

  • Despite being accused of naivety in his foreign policy, Barack Obama is showing qualities associated with Henry Kissinger – the arch-realist of US diplomacy, writes Ed Luce
  • Whether by design or accident, Athen’s Syriza-led government has achieved deep European harmony – but this has not produced agreement on a strategy for dealing with the Greek crisis
  • Dubai is hoping to be a bridgehead for deals with Iran as international investors prepare for a gold rush with the prospect of an end to nuclear sanctions in sight
  • Secret files from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) show how former officials under Saddam Hussein helped design a blueprint for the militant jihadi group’s meteoric rise (Spiegel Online)
  • Who or what abdicated power in Grimsby, once the largest fishing port in the world and now a target for the UK Independence party, leaving swathes of it to rot? (London Review of Books)

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Three weeks to go until the UK general election, and whatever the result – most likely no party with an overall majority in parliament – the remarkable thing is the serious underperformance of the ruling Conservatives.

The Conservatives inherited a nascent economic recovery in 2010 from a desperately unpopular Labour government that had been in power for thirteen years, and, despite questionable economic policies such as excessive austerity, narrowly managed not to screw it up.

But instead of building on their modest 36.1 per cent vote share in 2010, which forced them to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, polls now show the Tories struggling to break above 35 per cent. Read more

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  • An economic crisis in the Russian hinterland of Karelia, which exposes over-reliance on resource extraction and state jobs, is emerging as a microcosm of Russia’s woes
  • The rare spectacle of a banking chief behind bars is part of an unfolding crisis in the minuscule state of Andorra, wedged between France and Spain
  • Britain’s decision to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, seen as China’s answer to the World Bank, is a sensible decision – though not without risk, argues Martin Wolf
  • A former facial reconstructive surgeon turned bike gang leader has become a Russian patriotic leader, proponent of ultra-conservative views and vocal supporter of Vladimir Putin (Vice News)
  • How a slain Afghan woman became an unlikely champion for women’s rights (Washington Post)

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In his Budget speech to parliament on Wednesday, the UK chancellor George Osborne indulged in the traditional needling of his opponents on the opposite bench. Whether it was a dig at Ed Miliband, Labour leader, for his two kitchens, or at the party’s recent electioneering in a “women-friendly” pink van, his jokes at the opposition’s expense met with the usual roars of raucous approval from his own benches.

But the second biggest target of his needling was rather more surprising – our friends across the Channel. Read more

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By Gideon Rachman

The British are used to syrupy American tributes to the “special relationship” that binds the US and the UK together. But this week, the Brits heard rather different noises coming from Washington: growls of frustration at the direction of UK foreign and security policy. Read more

Despite a collective show of mourning for the assassinated opposition politician Boris Nemtsov, the prospects for Russia’s anti-Putin movement remain bleak

In one of his last interviews days before he was murdered, Boris Nemtsov told the FT that Russia had become a “country of war, of humiliated, hypnotised people” and that Putin had “brought Nazism into politics”

The egregious anomaly of the non-dom status, where the wealthiest enjoy the privilege of UK residency without paying their fair dues to the exchequer, should be scrapped, says the FT

Anatomy of a Killing: How Shaimaa al-Sabbagh Was Shot Dead at a Cairo Protest (Vice News)

‘Jihadi John’: a graduate of my radical London university, a place where extremism can fester and Islamist views were prevalent (Washington Post) Read more

Australia Day is typically when prime ministers attract positive headlines by doling out honours to people promoting good causes. But Tony Abbott, the gaffe-prone holder of the office, provoked a storm of controversy on Monday by awarding the country’s highest honour – knight of the order of Australia – to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh.

“I don’t get the priority the government had in nominating him,” said Bill Shorten, Labor leader. “It’s a time warp where we’re giving knighthoods to English royalty.” Read more

  • Bahrain’s royal family has built up vast private wealth, including a $900m portfolio of UK real estate, after embarking on development projects on disputed reclaimed land in the Gulf kingdom, an FT investigation reveals
  • The prospect of Greece’s self-styled “radical left” Syriza party coming to power has sown panic among investors, but its leader has softened his rhetoric and is changing tactics to reassure the business community
  • Beneath the surface of gridlock and hyper-partisanship in US political life is a national security establishment whose influence endures administrations and constantly seems to evade constraints
  • Narendra Modi has not made many sweeping reforms since he stormed to India’s premiership in May. But he has made some reforms about sweeping – showing his feel for the issues that affect the masses outside the Delhi beltway
  • The extent of the UK’s military and political catastrophe in Afghanistan is hard to overstate. It was doomed to fail before it began, and fail it did, at a terrible cost in lives and money, writes James Meek in the London Review of Books

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