In this week's New Statesman: The art of lying

Robert Trivers on self-deception | Jeffrey Sachs | Rob Brydon interview | Martin McGuinness

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In this week's New Statesman, evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, author of the foreword to Richard Dawkins's 1976 book The Selfish Gene, offers an essay on deceit and self-deception. From the absence of self-criticism that led to 9/11, to the psychology of faking orgasms and use of terms such as "collateral damage", Trivers describes the biological reasons why we alter information -- and how fooling ourselves allows us to convincingly lie to others.

Also this week, Rafael Behr finds the Prime Minister's diplomacy over the financial crisis compromised by the latest campaign -- led by members of own his party -- for Britain to leave the EU. Behr writes that Cameron and Chancellor Osborne "can be responsible European statesmen . . . Or they can be heroes to their party. They cannot be both." Sophie Elmhirst travels to Dublin to join Martin McGuinness on his presidential campaign trail and meets a man unable to escape his past, and, days after the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Mehdi Hasan reports on the 164 Palestinian children currently incarcerated in Israeli jails, asking: "If this isn't apartheid, then what is?"

All this, plus Laurie Penny on Occupy Wall Street, comedian and actor Rob Brydon on "Twitter lunatics" and Michael McIntyre, Jude Rogers on Jarvis Cocker's lyrics, and American economist Jeffrey Sachs in conversation with Jonathan Derbyshire on his new book, The Price of Civilization.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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Theresa May gambles that the EU will blink first

In her Brexit speech, the Prime Minister raised the stakes by declaring that "no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain". 

It was at Lancaster House in 1988 that Margaret Thatcher delivered a speech heralding British membership of the single market. Twenty eight years later, at the same venue, Theresa May confirmed the UK’s retreat.

As had been clear ever since her Brexit speech in October, May recognises that her primary objective of controlling immigration is incompatible with continued membership. Inside the single market, she noted, the UK would still have to accept free movement and the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). “It would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all,” May surmised.

The Prime Minister also confirmed, as anticipated, that the UK would no longer remain a full member of the Customs Union. “We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe,” May declared.

But she also recognises that a substantial proportion of this will continue to be with Europe (the destination for half of current UK exports). Her ambition, she declared, was “a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement”. May added that she wanted either “a completely new customs agreement” or associate membership of the Customs Union.

Though the Prime Minister has long ruled out free movement and the acceptance of ECJ jurisdiction, she has not pledged to end budget contributions. But in her speech she diminished this potential concession, warning that the days when the UK provided “vast” amounts were over.

Having signalled what she wanted to take from the EU, what did May have to give? She struck a notably more conciliatory tone, emphasising that it was “overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain’s national interest that the EU should succeed”. The day after Donald Trump gleefully predicted the institution’s demise, her words were in marked contrast to those of the president-elect.

In an age of Isis and Russian revanchism, May also emphasised the UK’s “unique intelligence capabilities” which would help to keep “people in Europe safe from terrorism”. She added: “At a time when there is growing concern about European security, Britain’s servicemen and women, based in European countries including Estonia, Poland and Romania, will continue to do their duty. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.”

The EU’s defining political objective is to ensure that others do not follow the UK out of the club. The rise of nationalists such as Marine Le Pen, Alternative für Deutschland and the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom) has made Europe less, rather than more, amenable to British demands. In this hazardous climate, the UK cannot be seen to enjoy a cost-free Brexit.

May’s wager is that the price will not be excessive. She warned that a “punitive deal that punishes Britain” would be “an act of calamitous self-harm”. But as Greece can testify, economic self-interest does not always trump politics.

Unlike David Cameron, however, who merely stated that he “ruled nothing out” during his EU renegotiation, May signalled that she was prepared to walk away. “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain,” she declared. Such an outcome would prove economically calamitous for the UK, forcing it to accept punitively high tariffs. But in this face-off, May’s gamble is that Brussels will blink first.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.