FirstFT: Today’s top news | Financial Times

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Boris Johnson dealt a blow Thursday night to the holiday plans of hundreds of thousands when he added France to the UK’s quarantine list from Saturday.

The move is expected to trigger a stampede by British holidaymakers for Channel ports and Eurostar services before new restrictions take effect at 4am on Saturday.

Whitehall officials say it decided not to add France to a “watch list” under pressure from devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as fresh data from France showed a 66 per cent increase in new cases over the past week.

Travellers arriving from the Netherlands, Monaco, Turks & Caicos and Aruba will also have to self-isolate for 14 days, Downing Street said just before 10pm on Thursday.

France indicated that it would retaliate by ordering a voluntary quarantine regime for Britons arriving in France, as Covid-19 drives travel restrictions between the two countries. (FT)

Coronavirus digest

  • The race to develop a coronavirus vaccine has heated up global stock markets, as companies look to equity investors for funds. Stocks were muted.

  • After months of setbacks, trials of England’s NHS contact tracing app are under way. Only one in five NHS trust leaders backs the UK’s approach to testing. A total of 445 LSE-listed companies have reduced or cut dividends this year.

  • Turkey’s finance minister has conceded that the country’s economy is in danger of contracting this year; the IMF forecasts Turkey’s GDP will shrink 5 per cent.

  • Young adults are driving the new coronavirus spike in Europe, a result of wider testing and social-distancing fatigue.

  • New US jobless claims dipped below 1m for the first time since March, a positive sign even as unemployment remains historically high. (FT, Bloomberg)

City centres need government support to recover, writes London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Follow our live coverage here.

In the news

Israel-UAE peace deal Israel and the United Arab Emirates reached a historic deal to normalise diplomatic relations as Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to suspend annexation of the occupied West Bank. The US-brokered agreement makes the UAE only the third Arab state to have full diplomatic ties with Israel, after Egypt and Jordan. (FT)

Exclusive: ViacomCBS streaming rebrand ViacomCBS is considering rebranding its streaming services as Paramount+, creating a “super-service” to compete with the likes of Disney+ and Netflix and revive the media empire following Sumner Redstone’s death. (FT)

WeWork secures $1.1bn SoftBank loan SoftBank has agreed to lend $1.1bn to WeWork to help cover the disruptions of coronavirus, on top of more than $10bn already invested in the lossmaking property group. (FT)

Line chart of Price of WeWork's $669m bond maturing in 2025 (cents on the dollar) showing WeWork debt rebounds

Trump threatens US postal vote funding Donald Trump has threatened to deprive the US post office of money needed for postal voting, a system set to play a larger than usual role in November’s election. The FT View is that a Biden-Harris ticket will be difficult to overcome. (FT)

See where Mr Trump and Mr Biden stand in our poll tracker.

Emissions regulations loosened Methane leaks from oil and gas wells will no longer be regulated in the US, as the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era environmental rules despite energy industry opposition. The International Energy Agency cut forecasts for oil consumption this year and next. (FT)

German towns brace for US military exit Thousands of US personnel stationed around Vilseck and Grafenwöhr may soon be withdrawn from US Army Garrison Bavaria, one of the largest overseas American bases, and a lifeline in towns that encapsulated an occupation-turned-alliance. (FT)

The fortunes of Grafenwöhr and Vilseck have been tied to the US army base © Dieter Mayr/FT

EU banks lose commodity appetite Banks including BNP Paribas and ABN Amro are turning their backs on commodity trade financing following scandals, large losses and increasing regulation. In the UK, HSBC’s First Direct will shift customers from Visa to Mastercard debit cards, as the latter targets its larger rival’s dominance. (FT)

A-levels backlash Ministers are under pressure to review A-level results, which were the best ever this year even as almost 40 per cent were downgraded. The FT View is that the “Covid generation” has been sorely let down. In the US, the justice department accused Yale University of discriminating against Asian-American and white applicants. (FT)

What percentage of Oxford university’s annual intake of students comes from low-income backgrounds? Take our quiz

The day ahead

Iran arms embargo The US appealed to France, Germany and the UK for a compromise as the UN Security Council prepares on Friday to release the results of a vote on extending measures against Iran, which is expected to have failed. (FT)

Nato hits Mediterranean waves Mike Pompeo and Nikos Dendias, Greek foreign minister, will meet in Vienna on Friday after France deployed naval vessels in support of Greece, which is embroiled in a confrontation with Ankara over oil and gas exploration in disputed waters off Cyprus. (FT)

Map showing competing claims for gas in the eastern Mediterranean

What to do about Belarus EU foreign ministers meet by teleconference on Friday after the bloc threatened to impose sanctions over election rigging and repression in Belarus, where workers at state-owned enterprises went on strike. (Politico, FT)

England’s theatres reopen Theatres, concert venues and sports arenas, including bowling alleys, skating rinks and casinos, will gradually reopen this weekend. Playwright James Graham says the crisis is also a historic chance to rethink live arts. (FT)

Keep up with the important business, economic and political stories in the coming days with the FT’s Week Ahead. Subscribe here. And don’t miss our FT News Briefing audio show — a short daily rundown of the top global stories.

What else we’re reading

The truth about ammonium nitrate A 2014 inspection report seen by the FT reveals Lebanese officials were aware of damage to a 2,750-tonne ammonium nitrate stockpile, which was labelled “explosives”. The tragedy might seem a prelude to a new start, writes David Gardner. A pity it won’t happen in Lebanon. (FT)

By 2014 more than half of the sacks of a stockpile of explosive ammonium nitrate were torn, documents show © AFP/Getty

Tax expert’s test of ‘faith’ William Morris, deputy global tax policy leader at accounting giant PwC, is one of the former General Electric executives who negotiated a $1bn tax break that the UK now claims was fraudulent. He is also a part-time priest. (FT)

Eviction day looms Across England and Wales, many tenants cannot afford to pay rent, with more in danger as furlough ends in autumn and redundancies rise. But with a five-month ban on ousting renters set to end on August 23, lawyers predict a tsunami of evictions. (FT)

Some landlords who were initially sympathetic to their tenants are no longer able to carry the burden of unpaid rent © FT montage; Alamy, Getty

Investment bank critics swing and miss No excessive risk taking, no outsized bets, no more monster trading desks. Virtue — and supposedly profits — now lie in safer pursuits, so the consensus has been. But the pandemic has rewarded those who defied fashion, Tom Braithwaite writes. (FT)

We’re all hypocrites In our polarised political climate, the charge of hypocrisy is used to silence anyone with whom we don’t agree. But it’s universal, Jemima Kelly writes. The greatest public calamities do not stem from any one belief system, but from fervent belief itself, Janan Ganesh writes. What we lack is a healthy dose of doubt. (FT)

‘We have a kind of paranoia that everyone apart from us is breaking the moral principles that hold society together’ © Harry Haysom

We won’t remember our Covid-19 lives There is good reason we have such vivid memories of our holidays, Tim Harford writes. A week of new experiences seems longer in retrospect; a month of the same routine might seem endless at the time, but will be barely a blip in the memory. (FT)

Irish hurling revival August is normally peak season for hurling, Ireland’s national sport and the world’s fastest field game. But with matches and training cancelled for coronavirus, the ancient stick and ball game, still played for pride and not pay, has returned to its rural roots. (FT)

A boy practises outside Walsh Park in the Irish town of Waterford. Top-level hurling and other sports have been postponed in Ireland due to the pandemic © Matt Browne/Sportsfile/Getty

A 2,500-year-old menu Fuchsia Dunlop, aided by a team of Turkish cooks and food experts, recreates the funeral feast of an eighth century BC Phrygian king, a hands-on archaeological investigation of Iron Age food and drink. (FT)

Video of the day

Martin Wolf: will Covid-19 kill off populism? The FT’s chief economics commentator looks at the political implications of the global pandemic and asks whether the onward march of populist regimes might be halted. (FT)

Thank you for reading. Send your recommendations and feedback to [email protected]

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