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Ireland’s leader Leo Varadkar has been holding last-ditch talks to try to save his minority government from a snap election. Fianna Fáil, Ireland’s largest opposition party, is demanding the departure of Frances Fitzgerald, deputy prime minister, over a police scandal. The row has upended the voting agreement that enables Mr Varadkar’s government to enact laws. Mr Varadkar’s spokesman said on Sunday that talks with Fianna Fáil had reached a sensitive point. 

Elsewhere in Europe, the collapse of talks to form the next coalition government in Germany have exposed Angela Merkel’s diminished authority, while six months after Emmanuel Macron’s presidential election win in France, his reforms have proved unpopular and his approval ratings have fallen from nearly two-thirds in June to 46 per cent in November. (FT, Observer)

In the news

Japan’s labour crisis
Japanese companies are offering more attractive conditions as they struggle to overcome the worst labour shortages in 40 years. Companies across a range of sectors — from construction to aged care — have warned in recent days that a lack of staff is starting to hit their business. The hiring difficulties highlight Japan’s declining population and the strength of its economy after five years of economic stimulus under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (FT)

Trump fights over finance watchdog
Donald Trump is preparing for a legal battle for control of the top US consumer finance watchdog, with two rival acting heads expected to appear at its Washington offices on Monday morning. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is in turmoil as two officials with radically different views on its future have apparent legal authority to take charge until the Senate decides on a permanent head. (FT)

US senators under pressure in tax reform push
Wavering US senators will come under intense pressure to get behind the Republican party’s tax reform package this week as GOP lawmakers and the Trump administration face a critical moment in their drive to overhaul the tax system. (FT)

Sharp back in the TV picture
Sharp sold 5.4m TVs in its last fiscal year — a third of those sold at its peak in 2010. But its new owner, Taiwan’s Foxconn, aims to double yearly sales to 10m with an aggressive marketing strategy and cut-price competition in China, typified by a big Singles Day promotion. (Nikkei Asian Review)

Islamists challenge Pakistan’s civilian rule
Pakistan’s army chief has urged the prime minister to “find a peaceful end” to protests by Islamists that have spread beyond Islamabad and unleashed one of the biggest challenges to civilian rule in years. At least five people including one police officer were killed and as many as 200 demonstrators were injured at the weekend. The protests began after a reference to the prophet Mohamed was omitted from a constitutional bill in parliament. (FT)

Bali volcano eruption imminent
Airlines have received a “red warning” about the danger of volcanic ash in the skies close to Bali after Mount Agung emitted a thick plume of smoke reaching 4,000m. It is the second major emission from the Indonesian island volcano in a matter of days, and a red warning means an eruption is forecast to be imminent. (BBC)

Egyptian regime under pressure after mosque attack
The massacre of more than 300 people in the deadliest attack by jihadis against Egyptians in the country’s modern history has added to pressures on the regime of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the president and former military man who overthrew his elected Islamist predecessor in a popularly-backed coup in 2013 and has vowed repeatedly to crush the jihadis. (FT, NYT)

The day ahead

Pope Francis visits Myanmar
Pope Francis will arrive in Yangon on Monday on a politically sensitive six-day visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh. The decision to make the first papal visit to Myanmar — a Buddhist-majority nation where 1 per cent of the population are Roman Catholic — was made after Pope Francis met Aung San Suu Kyi, the south-east Asian country’s de facto leader, at the Vatican in May. However, the visit was planned before Myanmar’s military crackdown on the Muslim Rohingya population. (FT) 

Cyber Monday shopping spree
They seem to merge into one these days, but after Black Friday, online retailers are preparing for a rush of orders in the lead-up to Christmas on what is expected to be their busiest day of the year. Adobe Digital Insights forecasts it will be the biggest online shopping day in history, with sales rising 16.5 per cent year on year to $6.6bn. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead.

What we’re reading

China’s music market is charting
Once a hotbed of piracy, China’s music market has become so sought after that copyright deals are going for substantially more than a song. Tencent dominates, with a 78 per cent share of the market revenues last year. That clout and a fat wallet has enabled the group to outbid rivals for distribution agreements with western labels eager to distribute their music in China. (FT)

Lunch with Bernie Ecclestone
The 87-year-old former Formula One supremo speaks riotously to the FT on everything from his admiration for Putin, “the guy who should be running Europe”, to his ruinously expensive divorces. Look out for the punchline when it comes to paying the bill. (FT)

Never smile at a crocodile
Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s new president, is a ruthless survivor of exile, prison, sacking and at least three attempts to kill him, says the FT’s David Pilling about the former member of the Crocodile Gang insurgents. Christina Lamb in The Sunday Times tells the story of Blessing Chebundo, the only person to have taken on Mr Mnangagwa and defeated him politically, but who says he became the victim of two assassination attempts at his hand. He is “worse” than Mr Mugabe, he says. (FT, Times)

© Joe Cummings

Office snooping goes high-tech
Pilita Clark looks at how we are being watched at work by increasingly sophisticated monitoring systems that assess our productivity and playtimes. Humanyze, for example, gathers data from ID badges hung around people’s necks, which have microphones and sensors that detect where you are and with whom you are talking. (FT)

FT seasonal appeal — Alzheimer’s, the drugs don’t work
There are just four drugs approved for the debilitating form of dementia, which is the focus of this year’s Financial Times seasonal appeal, but all of them treat symptoms associated with the illness and do nothing to halt or slow its progress. (FT)

Video of the day

A chocolatier’s guide to edible decorations Feeling festive yet? The head chocolatier at Rococo Chocolates in London’s Mayfair gives the FT a masterclass in making chocolate gingerbread men (and women). (FT)

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