FirstFT: A ‘new chapter’ as UK and EU strike N Ireland deal

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After months of talks, the UK and EU have finally clinched a deal to settle their toxic dispute over Northern Ireland trading rules in a turning point after years of post-Brexit tensions.

UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen sealed the agreement in the shadow of Windsor Castle yesterday, with both talking of a “new chapter” in relations.

Dubbed the “Windsor framework”, the new deal reforms the so-called Northern Ireland protocol, which was established to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland. But it also created a trade barrier for goods travelling from Great Britain into Northern Ireland, which remains part of the EU’s single market for goods.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party, said “significant progress” had been made but raised concerns over the application of EU laws, which Sunak has said would play “some role”.

Many Eurosceptic Tories may take their lead from the DUP. UK opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer said Labour would offer “full support” and back the framework when it is brought to a parliamentary vote.

Diagram showing the Windsor Framework for trade

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1. Shell explored quitting Europe and moving to US Shell’s new chief executive Wael Sawan was among a group of top managers who in 2021 discussed the advantages of shifting Shell’s listing and headquarters to the US, sources told the FT. But the Anglo-Dutch energy group said Sawan “did not advocate for a move”. The team ultimately decided to leave the Netherlands but consolidate its base and listing in London.

2. Murdoch acknowledged some Fox News hosts endorsed stolen election claims Several of Fox News’s star commentators, including Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro, “endorsed” claims on their primetime shows that the 2020 US election had been stolen from Donald Trump, the channel’s owner Rupert Murdoch acknowledged in sworn testimony given earlier this year. The company is preparing to fight a $1.6bn defamation lawsuit over its coverage of the vote.

3. UK consortium takes on Palantir for £480mn NHS contract A consortium of British data companies, including Voror Health Technologies, Eclipse and Black Pear, is taking on US-based Palantir, in a £480mn contract bid to build the NHS’s operating system. The companies told the FT they could provide software at a fraction of the cost budgeted, while also safeguarding UK patient data and reinvesting in the health system.

4. Altria nears deal to buy Njoy for $2.75bn Altria, the maker of Marlboro cigarettes in the US, is nearing a deal to buy e-cigarette company Njoy for at least $2.75bn, sources said, just five years after it spent $12.8bn to buy 35 per cent of Juul, then the US e-cigarette market leader. Juul has since faced a series of legal and regulatory blows, while Njoy received approval to continue selling its vape products in the US last year.

5. ‘No taboos’ over mergers in EU telecoms shake-up There will be “zero taboos” when the European Commission examines making Big Tech pay telecoms groups for their network rollout and whether to loosen rules around cross-market consolidation, EU commissioner Thierry Breton said at an industry conference in Barcelona, warning of a “radical shift” as he set out a broad 12-week review.

The day ahead

Economic data Canada, France and Switzerland release fourth-quarter gross domestic product figures. France also has its consumer price index for this month, as does Spain. Brazil and South Africa report unemployment rates.

UK strikes More than 350 Amazon workers in Coventry, and teachers in the north of England and Scotland will take part in industrial action over pay.

Results Abrdn, Bayer, Duolingo, HP, Jones Lang LaSalle, Moncler, St James’s Place, Target, Travis Perkins, Unite Group and Universal Health Services report. See the full list in our Week Ahead newsletter.

Join the FT and the FT’s Financial Literacy and Inclusion Campaign on March 8 at 1pm GMT for an hour of financial empowerment in the key areas affecting women. Register here for free.

What else we’re reading

A luxury residence in Turkey became an earthquake death trap The FT investigates how Rönesans Rezidans, a luxury development billed as a beacon of aspiration, became a symbol of the rot in Turkey’s construction system. The complex — centred around three 12-storey, interconnected blocks, which opened on to a swimming pool, shops, a gym and the shared amenities of a 5-star hotel — collapsed into a heap of rubble during this month’s earthquake.

Illustration showing the Rönesans Rezidans

Meta’s AI-driven ads system splits marketers Meta has been pouring money into applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to its advertising systems in recent months, in a bid to counteract Apple’s privacy changes. The overhaul is leading to bumper results for brands but also fears from marketers they are being forced to relinquish too much control to Meta.

Chinese factories launch charm offensive After three years of isolation under Beijing’s zero-Covid policy, delegations of exporters and factory owners led by local Chinese governments are heading to trade shows across the US and Europe to drum up business. They are targeting foreign buyers who diversified their suppliers over the past few years in response to Covid disruptions.

US child labour violations rise Violations of child labour rules in the US soared by 37 per cent last year, according to official figures, as businesses grappling with staff shortages resorted to illegally using teenagers to fill graveyard shifts. Federal laws prohibit children under 14 from working in most non-agriculture jobs, and many states have restrictions even past this age. But the worst violators appear to be sidestepping the work authorisation process completely.

Opinion: How to stop an ever sicker workforce dropping out The unexpected trend in the UK of people dropping out of the workforce has led to endless debate over what’s gone wrong, with people blaming it on austerity, welfare dependency and wealthy baby boomers. But whatever the root cause, occupational therapists may provide one practical solution, writes Sarah O’Connor.

Take a break from the news

For the best Japanese food in London, use our guide written by Joshua Ogawa. Discover hidden gems between and behind red-brick buildings that serve excellent, and sometimes creative, Japanese cuisine.

Popular grilled skewers ‘Set A’ include minced chicken meatball, asparagus with pork, and king prawn

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