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FirstFT: Belarus threatens to cut off EU gas as migrant crisis escalates

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Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko has threatened to block the transit of gas and goods to Europe if the EU imposes further sanctions on his regime over the migrant crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border.

Lukashenko was responding to an announcement by Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission president, on Wednesday that the bloc would widen sanctions, accusing Minsk of a “cynical geopolitical powerplay” in funnelling migrants to the EU’s borders in an attempt to destabilise it.

Lukashenko warned on Thursday that he would respond to any “unacceptable” sanctions.

“We are heating Europe, and they are threatening to close the border,” he said, according to Belarus state news agency Belta. “What if we cut off gas to them . . . We should not stop at anything to defend our sovereignty and independence.”

Lukashenko’s comments came as European gas prices have soared amid concerns over low supplies ahead of winter.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Gary

1. Foreign ownership of residential property triples The number of homes in England and Wales owned by overseas buyers has almost tripled in the last decade as residents from tax havens and Asia bought in to the UK housing market, fuelling concerns that wealthy offshore investors are pricing out locals. Hong Kong was the single largest source of buyers.

Overseas ownership has soared in cities such as Liverpool and Salford, pictured © Joel Goodman/LNP/Shutterstock

2. Tory MPs accuse Johnson of hypocrisy Boris Johnson, who this week ordered MPs to devote themselves “above all to your constituents” instead of working second jobs, has himself earned more than £4m from outside interests in the past 14 years, according to Financial Times calculations based on the register of MPs’ financial interests.

3. Sweden no longer pandemic standout, says Tegnell As a commission looks into Sweden’s Covid-19 response, epidemiologist Anders Tegnell — the architect of its early “no lockdown” approach — tells the FT that the country had one of the lower excess mortality levels in Europe, while on other measures it was closer to average.

4. Hungary to impose fuel price cap as inflation bites Hungary will cap the prices of petrol and diesel from Monday as the country tries to control rising inflation, prime minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said, ahead of what is expected to be a closely fought election next year.

5. Uber CEO flies into London amid driver shortage Uber’s chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi spent 24 hours in London this week — his first international trip during the pandemic — as the ride-hailing giant faces a shortage of 20,000 drivers ahead of the peak Christmas season.

COP26 digest

  • A US-China thaw on climate change co-operation has shifted the mood at COP26, even as the joint declaration did not include any major commitments.

  • Negotiators are rushing to agree the rules governing a global market for carbon, known as Article 6.

  • Eight of Europe’s leading business schools are putting aside rivalries to create an alliance on training, research and operations to tackle climate change.

  • Opinion: We should not be too quick to dismiss “blah, blah, blah” on climate, writes Gillian Tett.

Thanks to readers who shared thoughts about the progress — or lack thereof — at COP26. From reader John Bittleston in Singapore:

“Has enough meaningful progress been made at COP26? Obviously not but the spreading of co-operation plus the US-China agreement suggests that co-operation is now the buzzword. That is a big step forward”

The day ahead

Libya conference French president Emmanuel Macron will co-host an international conference on Libya in Paris today. Egypt’s president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is also due to attend. (Reuters)

India inflation The consumer price index is expected to hold steady today, but the release will be closely watched for final clues on inflation ahead of the Reserve Bank of India’s rate-setting meeting in December. (Reuters, FT)

Earnings AstraZeneca reports today, with investors seeking clarity on whether the drugmaker plans to sell its Covid-19 vaccine after the pandemic ends. Deutsche Telekom, Mizuho, Rakuten, Sumitomo Mitsui and Toshiba are also set to report results.

What else we’re reading and watching

Prime broking braces for new era European and US banks have long used prime broking, a business with steady if unspectacular returns, to forge more lucrative relationships with hedge funds. Credit Suisse’s decision to exit the business in the wake of the fallout from the collapse of Archegos Capital highlights how the industry is changing.

Bar chart of Based on funds serviced from inception as of 2021 showing Top prime brokers

Weakened UK economy emerges from Covid mist Has the economy recovered the ground lost during the crisis, or was the damage so severe it will take two years to return to pre-pandemic levels? According to the Office for National Statistics, both statements are true, writes Chris Giles.

Can the Vatican reform its finances? An FT Film investigates the Holy See’s finances and considers how landmark proceedings linked to a controversial London property deal could affect Pope Francis’s reforms in the city-state.

India’s ID system holds warnings for the world The Aadhaar biometric digital identification system has aided India’s explosion of online activity. But it has also enabled the piecemeal construction of the infrastructure for mass surveillance, writes John Thornhill.

Parties are back — but what are the rules? Our shut-in days are over, and that means a return to old routines — and parties. As the spirit of socialising once again exerts its grip on New York and London, Alex Bilmes, editor in chief of Esquire, asks: can things ever be the same as before?

Books

What is your favourite book of 2021? The FT wants readers’ recommendations for the best reads of the year. Responses will be published as part of our Books of the Year series featuring picks from FT writers and critics.

A busy bookcase
Tell us of your fave read and pick up a few tips, too © Getty Images/iStockphoto

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