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Boris Johnson will cap a resounding set of election victories in England by announcing a significant reopening of the economy on May 17.
The cabinet will sign off today on the third stage of lifting lockdown, with the prime minister declaring the pandemic under control and normality returning: “We can now look forward to unlocking cautiously but irreversibly,” he will tell a Downing Street press conference.
Businesses in all but the highest risk sectors will be able to reopen, including indoor service in pubs and restaurants. Hotels and cinemas will reopen, and indoor sport and exercise will be able to resume. Some performances and sporting events will be able to reopen, with restrictions.
But as the Covid-19 threat eases, Johnson faces political danger in Scotland, with re-elected first minister Nicola Sturgeon warning yesterday that she will press for a second independence referendum, possibly as soon as 2022. Last Thursday’s vote left her Scottish National party and the pro-independence Scottish Greens controlling 72 of the chamber’s 129 seats.
Scottish voters may have lit the fuse for a UK constitutional crisis but the confrontation has a very slow burn, writes Robert Shrimsley. The FT View is that to preserve the Union, the UK needs to win the argument. Johnson’s government, meanwhile, has emerged largely unscathed from its botched handling of much of its Covid-19 response.
US banks JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs have called all of their staff in the country back to offices as soon as next month, while European banks — from London-based HSBC to France’s Société Générale — have adopted relaxed attitudes to flexible working. In planning the post-pandemic workplace, too many employers are fixated on fixtures and fittings, writes Andrew Hill.
EU leaders have confronted the Biden administration over its call for vaccine patent waivers, urging the US to export jabs directly to poorer countries.
India’s Supreme Court announced a task force to improve distribution of medical oxygen. Narendra Modi’s popularity has fallen during the deepening crisis, while the Serum Institute of India’s global reputation has come under scrutiny.
The World Health Organization has added China’s Sinopharm vaccine to its list of approved jabs.
Covid-19 has prompted business schools and governments to consider ways of supporting executives who have been furloughed, laid off or need to retrain.
The Covid-19 crisis has exposed a fundamental flaw in the idea that we can increase productivity by changing our routine, writes Pilita Clark. Follow the latest on our live blog, and sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter, delivered to your inbox every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
In the news
US enacts emergency powers over oil pipeline cyber attack Markets braced for volatility in petrol and diesel prices after an essential pipeline, which carries almost half of the fuel consumed on the US east coast, was shut down by a cyber attack on Friday by a criminal gang known as DarkSide. The incident raised the possibility that fuel prices could surge to the highest level since 2014. For more essential energy news, sign up for our Energy Source newsletter, delivered every Tuesday and Thursday. (FT, AP, Bloomberg)
EU-India to restart trade talks Brussels and New Delhi have agreed to restart long-stalled negotiations on a comprehensive trade deal as both sides seek to boost economic engagement and respond to the increasing power of China.
Israel delays East Jerusalem evictions Israel bowed to international pressure and delayed evictions of several Palestinian families to make way for Israeli settlers, as security services warned the expulsions could further inflame some of the worst violence in the city in years.
On Netanyahu: A king to his zealots, Israel’s premier Benjamin Netanyahu is at risk of being supplanted by a coalition of kingmakers, writes our editorial board.
Metro Bank calls for looser rules on small banks In an interview with the Financial Times, the bank’s chief executive urged regulators to take advantage of a “unique moment” to boost competition by loosening rules for small banks, warning that the sector’s weaknesses would hamper the UK’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis.
UK chief executives’ pay cuts More than half of the executives of the first 50 FTSE 100 companies to publish their annual remuneration reports had their salaries frozen in 2021, against 35 per cent last year, as coronavirus ushered in a period of corporate restraint.
Musk hosts Saturday Night Live Elon Musk’s star turn as guest host of Saturday Night Live was like no other in the almost half-century history of the US television comedy show. Cryptocurrency dogecoin traded at around 52 cents at the end of the showing — putting its market value at about $72bn. (FT, Fintech Zoom)
The day ahead
Hertz courtroom auction A bidding war for the bankrupt car rental group will reach its end-game when rival private equity bidders square off for an auction in federal bankruptcy court today.
Dfinity launch The long-delayed cryptocurrency project officially begins trading and is set to release “the internet computer”, a group of technologies intended to support a generation of decentralised applications and services for the blockchain world.
In other crypto news: A pushback against stocks-like products in Germany and tougher talk in Washington suggest that financial regulators are bristling at cryptocurrency operators’ incursions into tightly-controlled public markets.
Economic data The Bank of France has industry sentiment data for April.
Earnings round-up Air Products & Chemicals, Duke Energy, Marriott International, Simon Property Group, Tyson Foods and Panasonic report.
What else we’re reading
UK’s services sector counts costs of Brexit The services sector accounts for about 80 per cent of the British economy, stretching beyond finance to include tourism, auditing and architecture. Yet throughout the tortuous process of negotiating Britain’s departure from the EU, the sector was rarely a priority. For hauliers, an exodus of drivers since Brexit has left the industry facing an acute staff shortage.
China’s ambitions in space Beijing’s accelerated pace of rocket and satellite launches, combined with a reluctance to share details of projects deemed of critical national importance, could create ripe conditions for stumbling into a space arms race, whether it wants one or not. A Chinese rocket segment mostly burnt up on re-entering Earth’s atmosphere on Sunday, but observers called the incident “reckless”. (FT, AP)
How Lex Greensill helped sow the seeds of Carillion crisis In the debacle around Greensill Capital, the finance firm that collapsed in March, the connection between its founder and Carillion has been only a footnote. But the way the outsourcer used supply chain finance to mask its mounting debts — allowing it to continue paying bonuses and dividends — became a central plank in the later scandal.
How billionaire women are reshaping philanthropy As Melinda Gates petitions for divorce, charities are scrambling to respond to gender, generational and strategic shifts. The growth in women giving reflects, in part, growth in their wealth.
The battle for the future of milk Start-ups and multinationals are competing in the $17bn plant-based drinks market — and the stakes are high. Advocates argue that lower greenhouse gas emissions from plant milk production, compared with cattle, point to a high-tech approach that could help feed humanity and curb global warming.
Video of the day
A revolution in retail recycling? Unwanted goods create mountains of waste and cost retailers hundreds of billions of dollars. Helen Barrett explores how brands such as Ikea and Decathlon are reselling and recycling damaged and rejected stock. For the latest news and analysis on ESG and responsible business, subscribe to our Moral Money newsletter, delivered every Wednesday and Friday.