EU starts to freeze UK out of contracts, oil slide slows and an ‘unholy mess’ over Nigerian oil

Brussels is starting to shut out British groups from multibillion-euro contracts

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An administrative chill is biting even before Britain leaves the EU. An internal memo reveals Brussels is starting systematically to shut out British groups from multibillion-euro contracts and urging companies to decamp to one of the 27 remaining EU members as it prepares for Brexit. European countries have also warned Britain against making it hard for EU citizens to remain in the UK after Brexit in a revised set of negotiating guidelines.

There has been a hardening of positions towards the UK since parliament triggered Article 50 last month. UK companies face being locked out of lucrative European space contracts and Britain is fighting to remain the home of two of the EU’s most prestigious agencies covering medicines and banking after the split. Opinions are divided on whether or not the upcoming UK elections will help or hinder the Brexit negotiations. (FT)

In the news

The ‘Mother of all protests’ At least three people were killed after mass protests demanding a return to democratic rule in Venezuela. President Nicolás Maduro has defied international calls to allow peaceful demonstrations and called his security forces to stop the protests. Despite the violence, opposition leaders have called for more rallies on Thursday. (NYT)

Oil slide slows Crude prices have levelled off after dropping more than $2 a barrel following data that indicated an unexpected rise in US petrol stockpiles and US production hit its highest level since mid-2015. The Saudi oil minister Khalid al-Falih, raised hope that an Opec deal to limit oil output could be extended. (FT)

Beijing caps population The Chinese capital is to cap its population at 23m “long-term residents” by 2020 “and keep it at that level for the long term”, according to a city government notice. The reason? To combat what it calls “urban diseases”. Instead it is likely to wreak havoc on small businesses and target migrants. (FT)

O’Reilly out of Fox News Conservative rabble rouser Bill O’Reilly was forced off Fox News after the disclosure of a series of sexual harassment allegations. An investigation by the New York Times found that the network and its star paid a total of $13m in settlements with five women. (NYT))

Emirates cuts back US flights The state-owned Dubai airline is cutting the number of flights to the US. It is a strong sign that the Trump administration security measures, such as a technology ban and a travel ban on Muslim-majority countries are hitting Gulf carriers. (FT)

ExxonMobil seeks waiver The oil company, which was until recently led by Rex Tillerson, new US secretary of state, has reportedly applied for a waiver from US sanctions on Russia as it seeks to restart its joint venture with state oil company Rosneft. (WSJ)

It’s a big day for

China’s space ambitions Beijing will launch its first cargo spacecraft, taking another step towards its goal of establishing a permanently manned space station by 2022. (Reuters)

Food for thought

Facebook wants to read your mind Its new “moon shot” unit is trying to “get info out” of the brain and “into the world” and has hired specialists in optical neural imaging systems and experts in decoding speech and language to do it. But back in the real world, the company is facing up to how it has become an outlet for violent and self-destructive people craving an audience. (FT, New Yorker)

Braving the cold in Russia Western sanctions restricting the access of Russia’s oil companies to foreign capital and technology were supposed to undermine their ability to operate in the challenging conditions of the arctic. Instead, they prompted homegrown ingenuity that has seen Russian oil company Rosneft tap deposits deep under the ice. (FT)

An “unholy mess” over Nigerian oil Royal Dutch Shell and Italian oil company Eni have found themselves at the centre of corruption investigations in Nigeria, Italy and the Netherlands over an oil deal made in Nigeria 15 years ago. An anti-corruption campaigner has described it as “one of the worst corruption scandals the oil industry has ever seen”. Meanwhile, oil companies in Nigeria’s troubled Western Delta are ditching vulnerable pipelines for barges to transport crude after losing thousands of barrels to sabotage. (FT)

On yer bike A significant study in the UK has found that cycling to work has huge health benefits. Commuting by pedal power was associated with a 41 per cent lower risk of dying, a 52 per cent lower risk of dying from heart disease and 40 per cent lower risk of dying from cancer. (The Conversation)

Merit over age Merit-based remuneration is revolutionary for seniority-based Japanese management culture. Employees at Sharp are about to discover how it works and parent company Foxconn will find out whether it can revitalise the business. (NAR)

Video of the day

Rivals fear Lula comeback In what could be one of Latin America’s most striking comebacks, ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is said to be considering a return to the campaign trail in time for Brazil’s elections next year. Joe Leahy reports on the chances of an audacious bid for office by the charismatic former leader of the PT Workers’ Party in spite of fraud allegations. (FT)


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