EconomyFirstFT: UK law could empower ministers to tear up...

FirstFT: UK law could empower ministers to tear up Northern Ireland post-Brexit trade deal


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The UK government is preparing legislation that will give ministers sweeping powers to tear up the post-Brexit deal governing trade in Northern Ireland, risking a fresh confrontation with Brussels.

Two people with knowledge of internal discussions said Boris Johnson, prime minister, and Liz Truss, foreign secretary, had in principle signed off on plans to put forward a Northern Ireland bill early in the next parliamentary session, which starts next month.

Whitehall insiders said the Johnson administration was developing the plans partly in anticipation of a constitutional crisis if the mainly protestant Unionist parties — all of which have rejected the Northern Ireland Protocol — refuse to re-enter the region’s power-sharing executive after May 5 elections.

Under the proposed legislation, which has not yet been presented to the cabinet, ministers would have unilateral powers to switch off critical parts of the protocol in UK law, including border checks on goods travelling to the region from Great Britain.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of the day’s news — Gary

The latest from the war in Ukraine

1. UK consumer confidence plunges to near-record low British consumer confidence has fallen to its lowest point since 2008 on concerns over the soaring cost of living, fuelling fears of a renewed economic downturn in the second quarter.

2. English cities warn ‘unrealistic’ housing targets threaten economic growth The UK government will miss its manifesto target of building an additional 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020s and is imposing unrealistic goals that will undermine its levelling-up agenda, business groups and councils have warned.

3. Elon Musk unveils $46.5bn financing package for Twitter bid The Tesla chief executive has lined up $25.5bn in debt — including a margin loan of $12.5bn against his shares in the electric vehicle maker — from banks led by Morgan Stanley. He said he would also provide $21bn of equity for what would be one of the largest leveraged buyouts in history.

4. WHO pushes Pfizer on Covid drug price transparency The World Health Organization has urged pharmaceuticals giant Pfizer to be more transparent about the pricing of its antiviral drug Paxlovid after recommending the medicine to treat Covid-19.

5. Serena Williams and Lewis Hamilton join Chelsea FC bid The US tennis legend and British Formula One driver backed an offer led by City grandee Martin Broughton and private equity billionaires Josh Harris and David Blitzer, one of three shortlisted bids to buy the English Premier League side from sanctioned Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. Sign up for our Scoreboard newsletter for more on the business of sport.

The days ahead

Digital Services Act The EU is to unveil on Friday a new law to force Big Tech to police illegal content and keep users safe online.

New Delhi visits Following Boris Johnson’s meeting with Narendra Modi today, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen will visit New Delhi on Sunday amid simmering anxiety over India’s relations with Russia. More details in Europe Express.

French presidential election France will vote on Sunday on whether to give President Emmanuel Macron a second five-year term or entrust the presidency to his rightwing challenger Marine Le Pen. Macron accused his rival of being beholden to Vladimir Putin and of risking civil war with plans to curb Islamism, but there are signs French Muslims have lost faith in him.

  • Poll tracker: In 2017, Macron decisively defeated Le Pen with 66 per cent of the vote. The latest polling points to a far narrower outcome in this election.

Register here to attend the FT’s first Crypto and Digital Assets Summit on April 26-27. Be sure to check out the full line-up of events, including remarks from Changpeng Zhao, founder and chief executive of Binance.

What else we’re reading

Macron, Le Pen and France’s long battle between order and dissent France’s hunger for radical social and political reform, as well as deep popular frustration with established elites, can be seen in the country’s widening divisions. Was Charles de Gaulle right when he said the French were ingouvernables?

Will women change the future of management? Office temperatures — mostly set at levels that suit men — are a tiny reflection of a larger truth: women have left a minimal imprint on the “official” theory and practice of management. Are the demographics of work and business due for an overhaul?

Few galleries selling NFTs despite the hype According to online sales platform Artsy’s 2022 Gallery Insights report, only 11 per cent of galleries sold NFTs in 2021, while 67 per cent said their clients had not even asked about them. Of those that did sell NFTs, half said their total sales value was $5,000 or less.

‘Nobody is remotely real around royals’ Former New Yorker editor Tina Brown discusses her new book about the British monarchy, her role as a “transatlanticker” and knowing everyone from Obama to Malala.

The fun way to predict the unpredictable Games can help us predict future crises that we never knew were possible, writes Tim Harford, from global pandemics to wars and how they pan out. Games are fun, too, making their lessons that much easier to learn.

Climate Game

The latest FT game puts you in charge of solving the climate crisis. Can you cut emissions to net zero by 2050 while protecting nature and preserving livelihoods?

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See if you can save the planet from the worst effects of climate change

Inside Politics — Join us for analysis of the latest UK political news, plus polls and a dose of culture — by new columnist Stephen Bush. Sign up here

Working It — Discover what’s shaking up the world of work with Work & Careers editor Isabel Berwick. Sign up here

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