The EU has said AstraZeneca must take coronavirus vaccines from UK factories to make up a shortfall in supplies to its member states, a demand that could unleash an explosive post-Brexit political fight.
AstraZeneca was contractually obliged to use vaccines produced at UK plants to fulfil its delivery obligations to member states, the European Commission said, as Brussels called on the manufacturer to agree to publish its EU supply contract.
The manufacturer said last week that its first-quarter deliveries would fall more than 50 per cent short of the bloc’s expectations.
The UK last year signed a deal with AstraZeneca — three months before the EU — to supply 100m doses. More than 7m people in Britain have received their first Covid-19 vaccine dose.
Meanwhile, Britain’s “first dose first” policy — which extends the gap between first and second Covid-19 jabs from three weeks to 12 weeks to ensure maximum inoculation as soon as possible — remains an outlier in global terms. Sign up to our Coronavirus Business Update here. (FT)
Keep up to date with the vaccine rollout with our recently launched tracker.
Johnson struggles to stem Scottish independence Boris Johnson will visit Scotland on Thursday in an effort to stem support for independence, while some ministers are uneasy at a strategy depicting Scots as recipients of Covid-19 cash from London. Robert Shrimsley argues that the referendum comes down to one question: would life be better if you take control of your own affairs? (FT)
Brexit red tape Britain’s small businesses warn that profits are being wiped out and operations forced to move to Europe as they struggle with the red tape and costs of trading with the EU after Brexit. For those that decided to maintain once-thriving export businesses with the bloc, it is often at the cost of jobs in the UK. (FT)
GameStop’s dizzying rally A “short squeeze” that started on Wall Street swept around the world on Wednesday, triggering another day of frenetic share moves for previously-unloved companies that were the subjects of short bets by hedge funds. The gains stood in contrast to a broad market decline, with the S&P 500 index suffering its steepest drop since October.
US tech earnings Apple reported its highest-ever net profit, with fourth-quarter revenues swelling to $111.4bn on a 57 per cent rise in sales in greater China. Facebook delivered record quarterly revenues as the push into ecommerce bore fruit. Tesla topped Wall Street’s expectations for revenue growth but failed to hit forecasts for earnings, sending its shares lower. (FT)
UK carmakers braced for job losses Britain’s car industry has warned that 10,000 motor manufacturing job losses last year were the tip of an “iceberg” facing the sector, after UK plants suffered their worst year since 1984. Output from car plants fell by 29 per cent to 920,928, the first time the industry has dropped below the 1m mark since 2009, figures show. (FT)
Powell: ‘we have not won this yet’ After a two-day meeting, the Federal Reserve held its main interest rate close to zero and asset purchases steady as chairman Jay Powell warned that the battle against the economic fallout from the pandemic was far from over. (FT)
Walgreens Boots Alliance’s new chief The drugstore group is to become the only company in the S&P 500 to be run by a black woman after it appointed Starbucks chief operating officer Roz Brewer as chief executive. (FT)
Economic data US gross domestic product for the final quarter is out on Thursday; economists do not expect it to be as strong as the previous quarter after fiscal support waned and the labour market lost steam. Initial jobless claims are forecast to fall to 875,000. Japan is set to release preliminary industrial production data for December, as is South Korea, while Germany has flash inflation for January. (WSJ, FT)
Earnings round-up Companies reporting on Thursday include Altria, Comcast, Danaher, easyJet, JetBlue, Marsh & McLennan, Mastercard, McDonalds, Mondelez International, Northrop Grumman, Principal Financial Group, Sherwin-Williams, TalkTalk, Visa and Wizz Air. (FT)
Sundance Film Festival The annual film festival, which usually takes place in Park City, Utah, will kick off Thursday with a virtual format. Check out our list of six films to watch this week. (Rolling Stone, FT)
Jane Street: the leading Wall Street firm ‘no one’s’ heard of Jane Street may be little known outside its community. But the company has become one of the world’s largest market-makers, trading more than $17tn worth of securities in 2020. The fast-growing firm helped keep bond ETFs liquid last year amid growing risk to US debt during Covid-19. (FT)
Can Biden raise the minimum wage? Since taking office, Joe Biden has pushed to increase the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009. Tying the drive to his $1.9tn economic stimulus package fulfils one of his election pledges. But it risks complicating the quick passage of the stimulus bill. (FT)
McKinsey’s political neutrality only serves Putin “Stay safe, stay neutral, enjoy weekend,” a McKinsey managing partner wrote to staff in Russia on Friday. The management consultancy’s attempt to ban employees from attending protests in support of Alexei Navalny helped maintain the status quo, writes Henry Foy — Mr Navalny would probably scoff at the use of the word “neutral”. (FT)
The future of Trumpism Recently-elected lawmakers such as Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert are determined to demonstrate their loyalty to the former president. But their real power lies in an ability to command the narrative, rather than notching up bona fide political victories. (FT)
Biden’s Iran nuclear deal test Full of veterans of Barack Obama’s White House, Joe Biden’s incoming foreign policy team will have no illusions about how tricky it will be to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, writes David Gardner. (FT)
António Guterres on the UN in a fractured world Covid-19, climate change and peacekeeping are all 2021 priorities for the UN. But these challenges require multilateral solutions. Gideon Rachman talks to the UN secretary-general about bridging security and military divides. (FT)