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French press review 14 November 2018

After months of talk, threats and tears, Britain and Europe finally reach a divorce settlement. It's a tad underwhelming, to say the best of it. American businesses are doing everything in their power to beat French competitors in the global marketplace. The rotters! Is there a dastardly plot in French publishing?

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It looks as if Brussels and London are going to reach a deal on the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

Le Monde's main story says the British Prime Minister Theresa May has come to terms with the European partners, but she still has to sell the whole ball of wax to her Conservative Party colleagues in London.

In a nutshell, the UK is going to remain in Europe and the question of long-term economic relations will be put off for another day. After a mountainous amount of labour and months of bleating, we end up with a mouse. And even that tiny beast may shortly end up under Boris Johnson's unforgiving high heels.

The problem for May is two-headed: those in her government and party who are against Brexit will feel that this last-minute agreement, to avoid the economic chaos which would probably follow an angry divorce without a deal, simply leaves Britain with all the problems of EU membership, without a voice as a member. Those who want a clear break from Europe are going to feel cheated too.

Whatever about the politicians and press commentators, the markets know what's good for them. The pound sterling strengthened yesterday on global markets following the announcement of the deal by Downing Street.

Shock! Horror! America bids for world business domination!

Le Figaro is concerned that America is spying on French businesses.

In the sort of exclusive story beloved by journalists, the right-wing paper details a report from the French interior intelligence services to the government, in which the panorama of US interest in French economic players is examined over six pages.

The verdict is without appeal: the Americans, we learn, have an aggressive policy when it comes to conquering export markets.

The crucial sectors are air transport, health and scientific research.

The basic idea is to give American companies the edge over their French rivals, and that aim is shared between the public and private sectors, aided by a vast arsenal of economic and judicial supports.

So far, you might have noticed, not a word about spying.

In the struggle, for example, between America's plane-maker Boeing and Europe's Airbus, the European firm has had to hand over crucial documents to US lawyers. But that's because the European company is suspected of corruption, not because Washington has James Bond on the case. Airbus may have cheated in assuring certain sales worth billions of euros, and that's something worth investigating, even if it means handing over strategic information to your main competitor.

Worse, it turns out that American money is being poured into European research and start-ups.

No bad thing, you might feel? But in fact, the nasties are buying their way into the cream of French research with the sole aim of skimming off the worthwhile output and so reinforcing what Le Figaro scathingly calls American economic patriotism.

As they teach you on the first day at Harvard Business School: do unto others before they do unto you.

How to win one of France's big literary awards

Left-leaning Libération looks at another ghastly plot for world domination, this time in the stormy tea-cup that is French publishing.

By poring over the statistics which show which publisher has won which literary prize since 1903, Libé is shocked, scandalised and spiflocated to learn that Gallimard, Grasset and Le Seuil have, between the three of them, hovered up 54 percent of the top six awards.

According to Libération, if you are published by Gallimard, you stand a one-in-four chance of winning a major literary prize. It's one-in-five if you're with Grasset, and one in ten for those whose works are published by Le Seuil. All the remaining publishing houses have to share the small half of the cake that's left.

Once again, the conspiracy theorists are left wondering what the point is. Because Libé ends its article by saying that the same domination by Gallimard, Grasset and Le Seuil is evident in the award of those prizes (the Schools Goncourt, Elle and France Inter) where the winner is chosen by ordinary readers.

Maybe they just publish better books?

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