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For Theresa May, the real challenge will be preserving the U.K. Add to ...

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Anyone who believes the EU is a plodding bureaucracy that couldn’t run a bath needs to think again. The European Union’s opening gambit in the Brexit negotiations is a master class in how to run your opponent ragged while keeping your cards close to your chest.

Expectations that EU leaders would be herding 27 grumpy cats into a negotiating chamber has proved to be wrong. Instead, Britain was given a list of red lines and a dull procedure for the leaver to follow: first, agreement on the terms of exit; then (hopefully, if there is time) a trade deal. But within that long list of objectives and necessities, there were a few sharp objects. Each is specifically designed not to harm Britain but to cause anger and distress within that segment of the British population for whom Brexit means nothing less than Empire renewal.

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