FirstFT: Johnson’s post-Brexit trade policy faces first High Court test

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The UK is facing the first significant legal challenge to its post-Brexit trade policy after the High Court agreed that a decision to cut tariffs on some British sugar imports could be subject to a judicial review.

The legal challenge was brought by British Sugar in response to a decision by Liz Truss, international trade secretary, last December to allow 260,000 tonnes of “raw cane sugar” to enter the UK tariff-free for 12 months from January 1. The government’s move was part of a post-Brexit global tariff schedule.

In Northern Ireland, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the new leader of the Democratic Unionist party, said he would push to remove the customs border in the Irish Sea within “weeks”.

Separately, economists assessing the effects of the first six months of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement have found the picture on trade employment muddied by the economic impact of the pandemic.

Five stories in the news

1. Global minimum corporate tax rate agreed The world’s leading economies have signed up to a plan to force multinational companies to pay a global minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15 per cent following intense negotiations at the OECD in Paris. The rules should be put in place next year and implemented in 2023.

2. Trump Organization and top exec fraud charges Donald Trump’s family business and its longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, have been charged with criminal fraud by New York prosecutors for allegedly failing to pay tax on certain employee perks. The charges mark a decisive turn in an almost three-year investigation.

3. Robinhood targets valuation of at least $40bn in IPO The online brokerage associated with the surge in day trading by retail investors is targeting a valuation of $40bn or more in its initial public offering, said people familiar with the plans, as the company published its fundraising prospectus yesterday. Here are the five most revealing numbers in it.

4. Nissan to build UK battery factory in £1bn Sunderland plan The Japanese car group’s plan for a large-scale battery factory as part of a £1bn electric investment programme secures the future of the car plant in north-east England beyond the UK’s ban on petrol and diesel sales in 2030.

5. US Supreme Court upholds Arizona voting laws In a 6-3 decision, Supreme Court justices upheld two Arizona voting laws that opponents said discriminated against racial minorities. The decision may make it more difficult to bring challenges to voting restrictions being enacted in states across the US.

Coronavirus digest

  • Lambda, the latest Covid-19 variant to draw the attention of the WHO, is worrying officials in Latin America because of its “unusual” set of mutations.

  • Indonesia is set to tighten distancing measures to counter record numbers of Covid-19 cases, as experts warn the country is on the brink of a “catastrophe”.

  • Japanese business sentiment has risen to its strongest level since the final quarter of 2018 as the global economy rebounds from the pandemic.

John Gapper has penned the imaginary all-staff memo of a highly paid chief executive driven to distraction by his empty office. For the latest coronavirus news, sign up for our Coronavirus Business Update newsletter.

The day ahead

Opec decision Saudi Arabia and Russia are working towards a deal to release more oil into the market in the coming months, as prices climb to the highest level in almost three years. But officials delayed a final decision on supply policy until today.

Euro 2020 quarter-finals Thanks largely to the duo of Jorginho and Marco Verratti, Italy heads into its quarter-final against Belgium as favourites. The Danish team’s journey through the tournament without Christian Eriksen, its star player, has revived memories of its 1992 victory. Follow our Euro 2020 coverage here and sign up to Scoreboard for weekly updates on the business of sport.

US jobs report Wall Street stocks wavered between modest gains and losses as investors struggled to predict the Federal Reserve’s next moves ahead of crucial jobs data being released today.

FT Alphaville is to host its first Markets Live on Twitter Spaces at 4pm UK time, with a view to holding it thrice a week once every one is back at the desks in September.

What else we’re reading

Let’s Marie Kondo Britain’s statue wars Kondo advocates removing possessions from their usual setting to remind us of how much unnecessary stuff most of us own. Using this logic, writes Tim Harford, the UK could make a choice of which colonial portraits and statues it wants to put on a pedestal. Do Edward Colston or Cecil Rhodes really spark joy?

Tim Harford: While ‘less, but better’ is revered by designers, it’s not the way most of us live our lives
Tim Harford: While ‘less, but better’ is revered by designers, it’s not the way most of us live our lives © Claire Merchlinsky

Teneo’s master of the dark arts spun out of control Declan Kelly built the world’s premier CEO advisory firm but failed to survive his own reputational crisis. In the span of just six months, Teneo was hit by two corporate disasters, costing both co-founders their jobs and casting doubt over the company’s future.

Britain’s private schools lose their grip on Oxbridge A decade ago, parents who handed over tens of thousands of pounds a year for the likes of Eton or St Paul’s could assume their kids had a chance of attending Oxford or Cambridge. But anger about inequality, state sector applications and international students have prompted the universities to rethink.

‘Home in the World’ by Amartya Sen — citizen of everywhere The economist and human rights campaigner spoke with the FT’s Edward Luce about his new book, his early life and his long battle for a fairer world. At 87, Sen’s mind remains as sharp as when he won the Nobel memorial prize in economics in 1998. But his body is painfully frail.

Let’s not be laissez-faire about affairs In the excitement over UK health secretary Matt Hancock’s affair with aide Gina Coladangelo, his peers lined up to remind us that he should only be censured for professional impropriety, such as breaking lockdown rules. The leniency we extend to philanderers and adulterers has always puzzled Jo Ellison.

Q&A: the Chinese Communist party at 100

Xi Jinping marked the centennial of the Chinese Communist party’s founding yesterday with a nationalistic address in Beijing. Ahead of the anniversary, James Kynge, the FT’s global China editor, wrote about the party’s longtime struggle to reconcile growth and stability. We asked him a few questions about the deeper meaning of the centenary.

A screen in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square broadcasts a speech by President Xi Jinping during celebrations to mark the founding of the Chinese Communist party © Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images
A screen in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square broadcasts a speech by President Xi Jinping during celebrations to mark the founding of the Chinese Communist party © Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

What’s the significance of the 100th anniversary of the party for President Xi Jinping? 
For Xi personally, this represents a public affirmation of his rule and that of the Chinese Communist party, which he leads. These set-piece events may appear stilted to the west but in China they play very well. Reactions to a huge parade in central Beijing in 2019 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China was greeted by Chinese inside the country and overseas with a surge of genuine pride.

How is Xi using the centenary to shape China’s image at home and internationally? 
Defiance. Nationalism. Pride. These are the emotions that Xi knows will stir the crowds and they were the touchstones for his speech in Tiananmen Square on Thursday. He warned foreigners that any infringements on China’s sovereignty would be met by a “great wall of steel”. He added that China would not tolerate “sanctimonious preaching” from outsiders. He said unification with Taiwan remained an “unshakeable commitment” of the CCP.

What will the CCP’s biggest challenges be in the next 100 years?
One obvious one will be the succession after Xi. He shows no sign of grooming a successor and has abolished presidential term limits, setting himself up to rule until he dies. Another challenge will be making good on China’s territorial ambitions — taking over Taiwan, by force if necessary — and enforcing its claims to most of the South China Sea and a series of disputed territories. Suppressing free speech among a 400m-strong middle class will also require constant attention.

Read more of our China coverage on FT.com.

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