Brexit is about to get real. Yet we are nowhere near ready for it | Jonathan Freedland

The triggering of Article 50 will kickstart negotiations of mindbending complexity. Brexiteers should drop the hubris and get to work

In the coming days, perhaps as soon as Wednesday, Brexit will turn from abstract to concrete. A near-theological argument that raged in one form or another for nearly three decades will become hard and material, with a fixed deadline. Theresa May is about to trigger article 50, starting the clock on a two-year journey towards the exit from the European Union. And yet those in charge of this fateful, epochal process – and especially those who most loudly demanded it happen – seem utterly unprepared for it.

In four words, the European strategy for the Brexit talks has to be: pour décourager les autres

Related: No 10 refuses to budge on Brexit bill, despite heavy defeat in Lords

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Tories face tax revolt and Northern Ireland’s deadlock – Politics Weekly podcast

Heather Stewart is joined by Larry Elliott, Jonathan Freedland, Rowena Mason and Torsten Bell to discuss Philip Hammond’s first budget. We hear from Labour’s Jonathan Reynolds and Tory Ed Vaizey. Plus: Henry McDonald in Belfast on the deadlock in Northern Ireland’s power-sharing talks

Philip Hammond’s first budget is met with a barrage of bad headlines and threats of a Tory revolt.Has a Tory manifesto tax pledge been broken? And has ‘Spreadsheet Phil’ forgotten to do his political calculations?

Joining Heather Stewart to discuss the first of two budgets in 2017 are economics editor Larry Elliott, deputy political editor Rowena Mason, columnist Jonathan Freedland and Torsten Bell, director of the Resolution Foundation.

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Hammond was a picture of relaxed swagger – because he was in the ring alone

Hammond left a series of holes in Tory defences that would normally be easy for the opposition to exploit, but Corbyn could not even land a punch

In normal times, this was a budget that – while thin on detail, light on policy and devoid of surprise giveaways: all hat and no rabbit – would have been judged to be full of risk. In his most striking announcement, a Tory chancellor hit a core Tory constituency where it hurts, by raising the taxes of the self-employed. In normal times, Philip Hammond could have expected a bucket of tabloid ordure to be poured over his head, punishment for declaring war on white van man and the millions of others who work for themselves.

But these are not normal times. True, Hammond was being hounded within minutes for breaking a pledge not to raise national insurance contributions that had featured in the Conservative manifesto of 2015. And the Daily Mail wasted no time in slamming the chancellor for his “brazen tax raid” on sole traders earning more than £16,000. Still, Hammond may well be calculating that he can ride out any storm.

Related: Key points of the budget 2017 – at a glance

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Donald Trump isn’t the only villain – the Republican party shares the blame | Jonathan Freedland

The US president’s links to Russia reflect the depth of the political crisis. This is a scandal of the entire American right

Who’s the villain here? Naturally our rage focuses on Donald Trump, a pantomime baddie drawn, as he would put it, from central casting. But behind him stand many others, and it’s about time they shared in the opprobrium.

Start with the unfolding scandal over Trumpworld’s links with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and the increasingly close parallel with the Watergate affair that toppled Richard Nixon. Both episodes, then and now, began with an election-year break-in at Democratic party headquarters. In 1972, that involved burglars with torches. In 2016, it was hackers and passwords. But in each case, real and virtual, the apparent objective was the same: the acquisition of damaging political intelligence. In 1972, the culprits were taking their orders from the American president. In 2016, at least according to 17 US intelligence agencies, the orders came from the president of Russia.

Related: Sessions did not disclose meetings with Russian ambassador during Trump campaign

Watergate spawned the now-cliched maxim that ‘It’s never the crime, it’s always the cover-up'

Related: If Trump’s goal is friendship with Russia, it’s a prize worth lying for | Simon Jenkins

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The audacity of hype: could Obama’s presidential memoir be the greatest ever?

The literary output of former White House residents is a mixed bag. Surely this most writerly of politicians will produce a book to savour

After Brexit and Trump, no one should make any predictions about politics – but here’s one anyway. The presidential memoirs of Barack Obama, whose purchase by Penguin Random House has just been announced, will be hailed as the very best in the genre.

Tricky to say that before a word has been written? Perhaps, but the bar is not set too high. Most of the men who sit in the Oval Office produce a volume of reminiscences afterwards, but few shine with literary merit. Most tend to follow a strict formula, recalling the highlights, explaining away the lowlights and pleading for clemency from the court of posterity. As such, they usually veer between self-justifying and self-pitying, often too bent on rehabilitation or legacy-burnishing to be a satisfying or even revealing read.

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