FirstFT: UK fuel crisis threatens to hit health services

World updates

UK medical workers and transport companies today warned the fuel crisis threatened major disruption to essential services and industry as they demanded priority access to petrol and diesel following panic buying.

The scale of the crisis, with the majority of the UK’s 8,000 petrol stations drained of fuel, prompted the government to put the military on standby to help with deliveries.

The British Medical Association said the crisis meant car-reliant healthcare staff risked being cut off from work, while taxi and courier companies said the petrol and diesel shortage posed significant disruption.

Households face a collective bill of more than £820m for rescuing the 1.5m customers of energy suppliers that have collapsed in recent weeks, according to research. The total cost could reach into the “billions of pounds” as more companies go bust, as expected, over the winter.

The FT View is that there are reasons specific to Boris Johnson’s government why shared energy difficulties are hitting Britain harder. Sign up to our Energy Source newsletter here.

How might you be affected as pumps run dry? Let me know at Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa — Jennifer

Five more stories in the news

1. German parties to start talks after narrow SPD win The parties that hold Germany’s balance of power said they would start talks to decide who they want to join in government after the Social Democrats’ narrow election win over Angela Merkel’s ruling conservatives. Here’s how Olaf Scholz dominated the vote. See the full results here.

  • Opinion: To judge from the party manifestos, the next German government will be committed to an EU army, writes Gideon Rachman. The FT View is that despite Scholz’s victory, smaller parties hold the key to power.

2. Andrew Bailey: all MPC members ready to raise UK rates In a speech to the Society of Professional Economists in London yesterday, the governor of the Bank of England said that every member of its monetary policy committee was ready to raise interest rates before Christmas if needed to prevent higher inflation becoming persistent.

3. Top Fed official warns of ‘extreme’ market reaction John Williams, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, yesterday said that failing to raise the US debt ceiling would have catastrophic consequences, hours before Republicans in the Senate were set to block a bill that would increase the borrowing limit and stave off a government shutdown.

  • In other Fed news: Two senior officials, whose trading activity prompted the US central bank to launch an ethics review, said yesterday they are resigning.

4. Oil prices rise above $80 a barrel for first time in three years Brent, the international oil benchmark, rose as much as 0.8 per cent to $80.19 a barrel during Asia trading today as markets grappled with the prospect of widespread fuel shortfalls heading into the end of the year.

5. Evergrande electric car division cancels Shanghai listing Shares in Evergrande’s electric vehicle unit tumbled in Hong Kong yesterday after it scrapped plans for a secondary listing on Shanghai’s Star Market, as bondholders remained in limbo after the indebted Chinese property developer missed a crucial payment last week.

Coronavirus digest

  • Portugal has emerged as Europe’s vaccination frontrunner after a public health drive that had a faltering start.

  • An acute shortage of staff during the latest Covid-19 wave has forced hospitals in the worst-affected US states to ration patient care.

  • A newly created party of jab sceptics has been elected to one of Austria’s largest regional parliaments after a shock election result.

  • Joe Biden received a Pfizer vaccine booster shot as he urged more Americans to get vaccinated with a first jab. (FT, NYT)

Follow our live coverage and sign up to the Road to Recovery for a regular briefing on business and the economy in a world transformed by the pandemic. Plus, read our special report on communicable diseases.

The days ahead

European Central Bank central bankers forum The forum today will be held online. Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell, ECB president Christine Lagarde, Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda and Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey are all scheduled to speak.

  • Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, and Catherine Mann, BoE policymaker, will speak at the National Association for Business Economics’ annual meeting.

UK premiere of No Time To Die The new James Bond film will premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London. In How to Spend it, Jessica Beresford details how to dress like Bond.

US Senate holds Afghanistan withdrawal hearing The armed services committee on begins this week’s two days of hearings on the Afghan withdrawal. Lloyd Austin, US secretary of defence; General Mark Milley, chair of the joint chiefs of staff; and General Kenneth McKenzie, who heads US central command, are expected to be called as witnesses.

Join FT Berlin bureau chief Guy Chazan, Erika Solomon, Berlin correspondent, and Sam Fleming, Brussels bureau chief, on October 4 for a discussion on the German election hosted by Valentina Pop, Europe Express editor. Sign up here.

What else we’re reading

Europe’s quest for ‘strategic autonomy’ While the US is becoming less focused on European defence, it remains the indispensable partner for EU states. The question for Europe has become not about making the continent militarily independent from the US, but about how it can be a more reliable and muscular ally.

Afghan sportswomen living in fear of the Taliban The Islamist group, which placed restrictions on sport when they ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, have made ostensible support for athletes a bedrock of their charm offensive. The question is, will women, who were barred from sports when they were last in power, be allowed to continue playing at all?

A woman cricketer practises in Afghanistan

Female athletes in Afghanistan are preparing for the worst despite Taliban promises of a more moderate rule © Aref Karimi/AFP via Getty Images

Jair Bolsonaro tests Brazilian democracy Shock and scandal have long been favourite weapons in the president’s political arsenal, often deployed to inflame situations. But the frequency and specificity of his rhetoric in recent months, combined with the mobilisation of his radical supporters, has generated a wave of concern for the country’s democracy.

The tale of Ray Dalio, China and $10 ‘miracle devices’ When Dalio first visited China, high-ranking officials thought his $10 pocket calculators were “miracle devices”, he recalls. Now, China rivals the US in technology and its tech platforms have been loved by global investors. At least until recently. Harriet Agnew explores foreign investors’ future in China in our revamped FT Asset Management newsletter. Sign up here.

Ted Lasso’s leadership lessons The sweet-natured comedy shows that it pays to be a kind and decent manager, writes Pilita Clark. So too agree dozens of LinkedIn denizens who have been inspired to post their leadership lessons of Ted Lasso over the past 12 months.


We say goodbye to the blazer as Angela Merkel prepares to step down. The German chancellor’s look let her get on with the business of politics, writes deputy fashion editor Carola Long.

Angela Merkel

© AFP via Getty Images

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