UK

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The No victory in Scotland’s independence referendum demonstrates, once again, the wisdom of the aphorism about historical change contained in The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel about Italian unification in the mid-19th century: “If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.” Read more

In his 2011 book ‘Vanished Kingdoms: The History of Half-Forgotten Europe’, the historian Norman Davies writes: “That the United Kingdom will collapse is a foregone conclusion. Sooner or later, all states do collapse… Only the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ are mysteries of the future.”

A ‘Yes’ vote in Scotland’s September 18 referendum is a distinct possibility. According to Peter Kellner, one of Britain’s foremost opinion poll experts, the pro-independence forces were, by the start of this month, gaining about four votes for every one lost, whilst the unionists were losing about two supporters for every one they were winning. Read more

It began in a blaze of British hubris. But three weeks later, as the Tour de France heads to the finish line on the Champs Elysees, the Brits have sunk without trace and the race has instead seen a striking renaissance of French cycling. Read more

There is a widening gap between Germany and its two principal English-speaking allies, the US and the UK, which ought to concern everyone who believes in the enduring need for a transatlantic alliance of democracies. Read more

♦ A potential split from Kiev is dividing the 200,000 miners around Donetsk whose livelihoods depend on Ukraine’s demand for coal.

♦ Anti-Assad rebel Abu Omar’s darkly comedic ‘Blockade Meals’ blog contains tips and recipes to help Syrians survive life under siege.

♦ Syria is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. More than 60 have been killed there since the current conflict began and many others have been kidnapped as they become pawns in the conflict.

♦ Simon Schama argues that Scotland‘s exit from the ‘splendid mess’of Britain’s multicultural union would be a disaster.

♦ The town of Chibok, deep in the northeastern Nigeria bush and down the most Boko Haram-dense road in the country, is gripped by fear and pain after the terror group kidnapped more than 200 of its daughters. Read more

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By Richard McGregor

US President Barack Obama speaks during a joint press conference with French President François Hollande in the East Room of the White House on February 11 2014It has long been an article of faith that the so-called Anglosphere countries, the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, don’t spy on each other.

The ‘Five Eyes’, as they are known, came together as an intelligence alliance after the second world war, initially bringing together the US and the UK, before they were quickly joined by the other countries. Read more

(Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

“A spectre is haunting the world: 1914.” So writes Harold James, a professor of history at Princeton in the latest edition of “International Affairs”. Professor James is certainly right that newspapers and learned journals are currently full of articles comparing international politics today with the world of 1914. I have written a few articles on that theme myself. Now, perhaps inevitably, there is a backlash. Joseph Nye, a professor at Harvard, has just published a piece on the 1914 analogy for Project Syndicate that notes: “Among the lessons to be learned from the events of 1914 is to be wary of analysts wielding historical analogies, particularly if they have a whiff of inevitability.”

So does the 1914 analogy actually make sense? Read more

♦ The FT’s partner charity for this year’s Seasonal Appeal is World Child Cancer – Shawn Donnan and Andrew Schipani look at the work it has been doing in Colombia.
♦ The FT’s Jamil Anderlini explains why London gains little from trying to please Beijing.
♦ As territorial disputes escalate in the waters around China, the Chinese government has been asserting ownership over thousands of shipwrecks in the South China Sea, which it says have been in its territorial waters for centuries.
♦ David Sanger at the New York Times analyses the row over the disputed islands: “As in the Cold War, the immediate territorial dispute seems to be an excuse for a far larger question of who will exercise influence over a vast region.”
A geopolitical tug of war is pulling Ukraine to the brink of upheaval once more.
German Christmas markets are not what they used to be – gifts and wholesome foods are being replaced by fatty foods and tacky fairground rides.  Read more

By Catherine Contiguglia
♦ The signing of a contract between the Somali government and UK oil and gas exploration company Soma to collect data on onshore and offshore oil has been called non-transparent, and raised concerns about whether oil politics could destabilise the country’s fragile recovery.
♦ Prague’s CorruptTour agency is selling out bookings for their Crony Safari that brings tourists to a sites connected with the most famous corruption scandals – from an address registered by 600 companies to a school where cash can buy a degree.
♦ The monetary tightening by India’s central bank could close credit arteries and make it difficult for the country’s banks to cover a mass of rapidly souring loans, writes Reuters’ Andy Mukherjee, as short term funding costs have increased during a time where the economy has slowed and the stock market is slumping.
♦ The drive by policy makers to put Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac out of business doesn’t make any sense, writes Joe Nocera, as they are no longer bullies, are making the government money, and are necessary to uphold the core of American housing finance.
♦ The sit-ins being held around Egypt by those in favour of reinstating President Mohamed Morsi will likely not work, according to an analysis by Foreign Policy’s Erica Chenoweth, as studies show that nonviolent campaigns must follow a strategy of carefully sequenced moves, or they can end in catastrophe. Read more

A Syrian flag flies over the clock town in Qusair (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

By James Blitz and Elizabeth Rigby

Senior parliamentarians and government officials in Britain believe it is highly unlikely that the UK will transfer arms to moderate Syrian rebels at some future date because they believe David Cameron has lost the political support needed to make such a move.

For many months, Britain’s prime minister has been the most forward-leaning of western leaders in arguing that the moderate rebels fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime may soon need arms from the west, partly to tilt the battlefield in their favour.

Last week, Mr Cameron’s position received strong support from the Obama administration in the US, which finally announced that it would transfer arms to the rebels. However, any attempt by the UK to support such a move is now so firmly opposed by Mr Cameron’s own Conservative MPs that he would be unlikely to win a vote in the House of Commons, leading politicians have told the FT. Read more

Qusair, in Homs Province (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

This has been a week of intense diplomatic and military activity over Syria. At the end of it, anyone analysing the situation has much new detail to reflect on. The Assad regime is making considerable advances on the ground. The EU arms embargo on Syria has been amended, allowing Britain and France to supply weapons to parts of the Syrian opposition at some future date if they wish. Russia seems to be pressing ahead with the provision of the S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to the Syrian regime, alarming the Israelis. Meanwhile diplomacy over a planned peace conference to try and bring an end to the civil war presses ahead – albeit with deep scepticism from many diplomats about the chance of success.

What should we make of all these events? After conversations with several western diplomats analysing the situation, one can pick out various strands that help organise one’s assessment of where things stand. Read more

I am pleased that my column on Britain and Europe today has attracted lots of hits and comments. But, inevitably, when you try to deal with such a complex subject in 900 words (give or take), there is a lot you have to leave out. And there was one vital part of the subject that I didn’t deal with – and that is the impact of immigration on the British debate on Europe. Read more

It’s a competition with some questionable talent, scorned for its lack of taste, and yet the Eurovision Song Contest has an audience of 125m and brings pundits out in force to discuss what it says about the state of Europe today. With this year’s final coming up this Saturday in Malmö, Sweden, we give you the best pieces on how it works and why Europeans care, so that you can mingle with confidence at Eurovision parties.

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♦ Energy companies scrambling for reserves in Somalia are at risk of opening up dangerous faultlines.
♦ Janan Ganesh thinks the UK Conservative party has become ungovernable. “Drama is giving way to farce. Having run out of big but rash things to ask for, the demands of eurosceptic backbenchers are now plain odd.”
♦ Germany’s Green party is still coming to terms with its historical links to pedophiles.
On a final note… Are you a fan of statistics guru Nate Silver? Do you love Euro-pop song contests with political undertones? Martin O’Leary, a “recovering pure mathematician”, has set up a model to predict the results of this weekend’s Eurovision Song Contest.  Read more

♦ There are doubts over how much longer Latin America will benefit from the “commodity supercycle”.
♦ Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian president, has registered for next month’s election, disrupting the Islamic regime’s plans to hand power to a loyal fundamentalist.
♦ Nawaz Sharif has sealed his third term as prime minister of Pakistan. However, the sense of vibrant democracy has been tempered by Taliban attacks. The New York Times bureau chief was also expelled on the day of voting.
♦ Forty years after Watergate, the BBC looks at the legacy of investigative journalism in the UK.
♦ After the news that Bloomberg’s journalists could see more than Bloomberg’s customers would like them to, Quartz takes a look at the culture of omniscience that pervades the organisation and Hilary Sargent (aka ChartGirl) explains how it works in this neat diagram.
On another note… Britain’s approach to Eurovision might need some fine-tuning.  Read more

(CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

(CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

President François Hollande this week published France’s long awaited strategic defence review, setting out what the French armed forces should be aiming to do in the years ahead. The publication of the document – called the “livre blanc” or “white book” – was an important moment for those following European defence.

In recent years, the US has become increasingly concerned that European states are cutting back on defence spending, leaving the US to do more and more of the heavy lifting in Nato. In 2010, Britain, the biggest defence spender in Europe, slashed expenditure by eight per cent in real terms. The big question was whether France was about to do the same.

The good news for France’s allies is that it isn’t taking what might be called the “Cameron approach.” According to Camille Grand, director of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, France did debate whether to slash defence spending by 10 per cent. “But the French finance ministry lost that argument, much to relief of the service chiefs,” he says. Read more

♦ Martin Wolf argues that the UK industrial revolution shows the Reinhart-Rogoff thesis on debt is not always right.
♦ Frigide Barjot and her fellow protesters have taken the heat off Hollande as people take to the streets to protest over gay marriage rather than the state of the economy.
♦ The planting of sugar cane has exacerbated the effects of the worst drought in more than four decades in the Indian state of Maharashtra.
♦ Critics say that Nelson Mandela’s family members have been using his status for their own enrichment. Two of his grandchildren are involved in a US reality show called Being Mandela and his daughter has launched a wine business called House of Mandela.
♦ FT Alphaville take a typically irreverent look at the ‘tweet retreat’ in their Occupational Indifference series.
♦ The number of people in Britain receiving emergency food rations has more than doubled in the past year as inflation eroded incomes and government spending cuts have pushed hundreds of thousands into crisis.
♦ Jacob Heilbrunn at The National Interest examines Israel’s fraying image and the possibility that US interest in Israel’s fortune could wane: if Israel remains stymied in dealing with the Palestinians… its predicament is likely to intensify. And the range of options for dealing with the country’s mounting problems is likely to expand toward more radical solutions.”
♦ Japanese drivers are getting televisions installed in the front of their cars. “Japanese law prohibits “staring” at a screen while driving, without saying anything about glancing at one.”
♦ The New York Times is debating the usefulness of Nato.

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♦ Cuts to welfare payments in the UK will hit northern communities as much as five times as hard as the Conservative heartlands of the south. Take a look at the FT’s Austerity Audit interactive to see all the research and reporting on the effects of the current government’s radical reforms.

♦ Brazil is grappling with a Congress where “foxes” are often in charge of the henhouse.

♦ The Egyptian armed forces participated in forced disappearances, torture and killings during the 2011 uprising, despite publicly declaring their neutrality.

♦ Mona Eltahawy explains why satire is a serious subject in Egypt: “What is satire if not a marriage of civil disobedience to a laugh track, a potent brew of derision and lack of respect that acts as a nettle sting on the thin skin of the humourless? And what is revolution if not the ultimate act of derision against the established powers.”

♦ Marc Lynch wonders if his initial assessment of the Muslim Brotherhood was wrong: both academics and policymakers need to recognize that the lessons of the past no longer apply so cleanly, and that many of the analytical conclusions developed during the Mubarak years are obsolete.”

♦ Robert Driessen, one of the world’s most successful art forgers, tells his story (from Thailand, out of the reach of European authorities).

♦ Alexei Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who plans to run in the 2018 presidential election, will be put on trial next week. Georgy Bovt explains why he will go to jail.  Read more