Brexit: The mind games

Theresa May delivers her keynote speech on Brexit at Lancaster House Image copyright Getty Images

Psychology is always part of tense negotiations. In her Lancaster House speech this week Theresa May sought to seize back the advantage before the real battles start at the end of March. She wanted Europe to know that Britain would not be coming to meetings on the defensive, cap in hand.

During the 40 minutes of her speech she managed to shift the balance of power a little. A few days before she spoke I had been in Brussels and had spoken to a very senior European figure.

He was pessimistic. Mrs May, in his view, did not have a good relationship with other European leaders. He thought the negotiations could "go wrong from the start" and was in no doubt that in those circumstances the UK would be the loser.

He pointed out that Brexit was not high on the agenda for voters in the other 27 EU states. It was a way of saying that in the forthcoming negotiations the UK was the needy one. Britain would have to compromise.

What he reflected is the widely-held view in the EU that the divorce will be messy, that real damage will be done to the British economy.

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Why Brexit is still undefined

British Prime minister Theresa May gives a press conference on the second day of a European Union leaders summit in October 2016 Image copyright STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/Getty Images

It is a curious moment in British politics. The government is facing the most important negotiations in over 50 years. The outcome will shape the future of the UK economy - but you would not necessarily know it.

The consumers - the voters - appear to be shrugging off the uncertainties, the unknowns and the warnings of future risks.

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The world in 2017: The battle of ideas

A metal globe Image copyright PhotoDisk/Eyewire

2016 was the year of the unravelling. Norms were dispensed with. Old ideas were challenged and discarded. Our settled world was shaken and we became used to the shock of the new.

Since World War Two, and earlier, there was a consensus that trade was about much more than just economics. It was an instrument for peace. Reducing trade barriers sparked growth and prosperity. That consensus is creaking.

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The Brexit puzzle

  • 21 December 2016
  • From the section Brexit
A European Union flag, with a hole cut in the middle Image copyright Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The year ends with a Brexit puzzle: a multi-coloured cube that, however twisted and turned, defies easy solution.

Six months on from the UK referendum, the process of leaving the EU is enveloped by a cloud of unknowing.

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Why Italy's vote matters

  • 5 December 2016
  • From the section Europe
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Image copyright EPA

In the year of political upheavals, there has been another popular uprising - this time in Italy.

Here is how the narrative goes: Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is the establishment figure. He has gambled on holding a referendum to win backing for his reforms. He loses, and resigns.

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Europe's dangerous milestones

  • 29 November 2016
  • From the section Europe
Flags of the European Union fly outside the European Parliament Image copyright Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

The dates stretch out over the months ahead; days in the calendar that could define Europe's values and shape the future of liberal democracy.

In the shadow of Donald Trump's victory and - to a lesser extent - Brexit, Europe faces a series of crucial votes. Although some of the anti-establishment strains in Europe are different from those in America, many of them are the same and equally potent.

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America: The people's rage

Anti-Trump demonstration in Manhattan Image copyright Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In Manhattan from mid-town to Central Park, the city is choked with frustrated drivers. Trump Tower, on Fifth Avenue, where the president-elect is building his administration, has become a venue for demonstrators.

There are flash protests with signs like "Immigrants welcome". Office workers gaze down, some pump their fists in support.

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US election 2016: America's date with destiny

US Presidential Candidates Hillary Clinton (L) and Donald Trump Image copyright Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

This long, bruising campaign is drawing to a close. America is holding its breath as to what follows. The political divide is deep.

A significant part of the country views Donald Trump as a thin-skinned narcissist, with a loose understanding of the truth, ignorant of international affairs and comfortable with causing offence.

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America's 'rigged' election

An absentee ballot featuring voting options for the US presidential election Image copyright SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump tweeted that there would not be another day as good as last Friday.

In his view the announcement that the FBI was reviewing new material in the Hillary Clinton emails inquiry "changes everything". He called on his supporters to "prevent her taking her criminal scheme into the White House".

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Trump faithful undeterred by polls and scandals

US presidential candidate Donald Trump hugs a US flag Image copyright Reuters

It is the final stretch of a brash, improbable campaign. Donald Trump is rolling through Florida's campaign stops; places like St Augustine, Tampa, Sanford, Tallahassee. It is a state he must win if he is to have a chance of claiming the White House.

His voice is a little weaker but he draws energy from large fired-up crowds who break into chants of "USA! USA!" In St Augustine, people were queuing from 10:00 for a 15:00 speech.

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